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Press  oi  tb8  North 'American  Review. 





Biographical  notice      -  3 

On  uniformity  in  religion  27 
On  the  right  of  private  judgment       -  37 
On  the  nature  and  objects  cf  baptism,  as  re- 
garding church  fellcw  sin?           -  49 
Reflections  on  christian  lI^ervt/cjvil  ESTAB- 
lishments in  religion,  and  toleration      .    -  93 
Hints  concerning  the  ussthut-on  an->, disci- 
pline OF  THE  PRIMITIVE  CHURCH        -                -  137 

The  spirit  of  god  the  guide  of  good  men         -  145 

The  christian  religion  easy  to  be  understood  165 

The  jews             -----  176 



Biographical  notice         -  185 

Remarks  on  the  writings  op  dr  cogan         -  197 


OF  TOTAL  DEPRAVITY  -  -  -  .235 


Confidence  with  which  the  Calvinistic  Tenet  of  De- 
pravity is  usually  asserted.  False  Modes  of 
Reasoning  by  which  it  is  supported.  Leads  to 
Skepticism.  Sanctions  absurd  and  impossible 
Doctrines.  To  be  believed  only  by  rejecting  the 
Dictates  of  the  Understanding.  Harmony  be- 
tween, Reason,  and.  Scripture 



Calvinistic  Doctrine,  of  'Qrjgiwl  Sin,  or  Total  De- 
pravityy'stfiiefh  .  Not  .caistitent  with  Scripture. 
No  evidence  in  the  Sacred  Writings,  that  Adam 
was  created  with  a  perfect  Nature,  or  that  the 
sinful  Propensities  of  his  Posterity  were  derived 
from  him 272 



Texts  of  Scripture  examined.  The  Notion  of  a 
Total,  Hereditary  Depravity  confuted  by  Obser- 
vation and  Experience.  Stronger  Proofs,  that 
Men  are  upright  and  perfect,  than  that  they  are 
totally  depraved  -        -        -         -         -         287 


Doctrine  of  Original  Depravity  can  be  reconciled 
neither  with  the  Physical,  nor  Metaphysical 
Structure  of  Man.  At  variance  with  other  Doc- 
trines of  the  Calvinistic  Scheme  -        -         307 


The  Notion,  that  Men  are  punished  for  Sin  inherit- 
ed from  Adam,  is  extravagant,  irrational,  and 
unscriptural.  Shown  to  be  absurd,  and  the  Ar- 
guments in  its  Favour  examined  and  confuted. 
It  is  in  Opposition  to  the  Attributes  of  God     -     325 


The  Scheme  of  Original  Depravity  not  necessary 
to  account  for  Moral  Imperfection  in  Man.  Ar- 
guments against  the  Doctrine  drawn  from  its 
pernicious  Consequences       -  355 







Among  the  uses  of  biography,  none  is  more  valua- 
ble, than  that  which  inspires  good  purposes,  awakens 
energy,  and  incites  to  exertion.  The  events  of  a 
person's  life,  who  has  risen  to  eminence  by  the  force 
of  his  own  genius  and  enterprise,  are  always  interest- 
ing, because  they  are  rare ;  they  are  always  instruc- 
tive, because  they  serve  as  a  light  and  a  guide  to 
others,  whose  early  fortunes  may  be  equally  unpro- 

That  one  should  go  out  triumphantly  on  the  tide 
of  life,  who  is  blessed  with  all  the  advantages  of  fam- 
ily, wealth,  powerful  friends,  facilities  of  education, 
and  incitements  to  employ  them,  is  no  cause  of  won- 
der. It  would,  indeed,  be  strange  if  it  were  other- 
wise. But  when  the  sons  of  obscurity  and  indigence 
break  from  the  cloud  which  surrounds,  and  the  weight 
which  oppresses  them  ;  when  they  enter  on  the 
world's  wide  ocean,  without  a  parent's  voice  to  coun- 
sel, or  a  parent's  hand  to  protect ;  when  each  return- 
ing day  brings  them  into  a  new  conflict  with  want 
and  anxiety  ;  when  the  allurements  of  vice  besiege 
them  on  the  one  side,  and  the  spectres  of  despond.en- 


cy  assault  them  on  the  other,  without  shaking  their 
firmness,  or  turning  them  from  the  steady  purpose  of 
uprightness  and  perseverance  ;  and  when,  in  defi- 
ance of  every  other  obstacle,  they  ascend  to  a  proud 
station  among  the  wise,  the  learned,  and  the  good  ; 
it  is  then  that  they  may  justly  claim  the  respect  and 
admiration  of  their  fellow-men,  and  call  on  them  to 
behold  an  example  worthy  to  be  praised  and  emu- 
lated. Among  the  few,  who  are  to  be  revered  for 
self-acquired  eminence,  the  subject  of  the  present 
memoir  stands  in  an  honourable  place. 

Robert  Robinson  was  born  at  SwafFham,  county 
of  Norfolk,  on  the  eighth  of  October,  1735.  His 
father  was  a  native  of  Scotland,  and  an  exciseman, 
of  whom  little  needs  be  said,  except  that  his  humble 
sphere  in  life  received  no  dignity  from  his  under- 
standing, and  no  brightness  from  his  virtues.  Mary 
Wilkin,  the  mother  of  Robert  Robinson,  was  descend- 
ed from  a  respectable  family,  and  to  the  advantages 
of  a  good  education  she  added  the  charms  of  a  beau- 
tiful person,  an  amiable  temper,  and  gentleness  of 
manners.  She  was  the  daughter  of  a  second  mar- 
riage, and,  as  unnatural  as  it  may  seem,  the  affections 
of  her  father  were  centred  in  the  children  of  his  wife 
by  a  former  husband.  Mary  was  doomed  to  experi- 
ence from  him  less  of  the  tenderness  of  a  parent,  than 
of  the  austerity  and  unfeelingness  of  a  severe  master. 
He  delighted  to  thwart  her  purposes  ;  and  on  several 
occasions,  through    mere   caprice,   he    rejected   the 


overtures  of  worthy  and  respectable  persons,  who  so- 
licited his  daughter's  hand. 

Disheartened  by  the  severity  of  her  father's  treat- 
ment, and  impatient  to  escape  from  it,  she  imprudent- 
ly resolved  on  marrying  without  his  consent.  This 
step  was  a  prelude  to  untried  evils.  She  united  her- 
self to  a  man  in  all  respects  unworthy  of  her,  pos- 
sessing neither  the  qualifications  for  making  her  hap- 
py, nor  the  disposition  to  soften  and  conciliate  her 

They  had  three  children,  of  whom  Robert  was  the 
youngest.  The  elder  son  was  apprenticed  to  a 
painter,  and  the  daughter  to  a  mantuamaker.  Robert 
was  put  to  school  when  six  years  old,  and  soon  drew 
the  attention  of  his  teacher,  as  exhibiting  more  than 
usual  promise.  In  the  mean  time,  his  father  remov- 
ed from  Swaffham,  and  settled  at  Scaring.  He 
soon  after  died,  and  left  the  destitute  mother  to  pro- 
vide for  herself,  and  three  children.  At  Scaring  was 
a  grammar  school,  where  Lord  Thurlow,  and  some 
other  distinguished  persons,  received  the  rudiments  of 
their  education.  Desirous  of  encouraging  her  son's 
predilection  for  learning,  Mrs  Robinson  made  an  ef- 
fort to  maintain  him  at  this  school,  but  her  resources 
proved  inadequate  to  the  expense.  So  favourable 
an  impression  had  he  made,  however,  on  his  teacher, 
the  Rev.  Joseph  Brett,  and  so  much  did  this  gentle- 
man respect  the  motives  and  virtues  of  the  mother. 


that  he  kindly  offered  to  instruct  his  pupil  without 

On  these  terms  he  continued  at  school  till  he  was 
fourteen  years  old,  studied  the  French  and  Latin,  and 
made  rapid  proficiency  in  most  of  the  branches  com- 
monly pursued  at  such  institutions.  The  time  had  now 
come  when  it  was  necessary  to  decide  on  his  future 
destination.  So  many  discouragements  were  in  the 
wTay  of  his  being  a  scholar,  and  so  many  difficulties 
to  be  encountered,  that  his  mother  resigned  this  hope, 
which  she  had  suffered  to  rise  and  brighten  for  a 
time,  and  was  only  concerned  to  place  him  beyond 
the  reach  of  want  by  providing  for  him  an  honest 
calling.  His  benevolent  instructer,  Mr  Brett,  made 
interest  to  procure  a  situation  suited  to  his  capacity 
and  inclination,  but  without  success.  He  was  finally 
bound  as  an  apprentice  to  a  hairdresser  in  London. 

To  this  new  employment  he  at  first  devoted  him- 
self with  commendable  industry,  received  the  appro- 
bation of  his  master,  and  was  able  to  boast  of  a  due 
proficiency  in  the  mysteries  of  his  trade.  But  his 
thoughts  were  not  to  be  chained,  nor  could  nature  be 
forced.  His  mind  was  too  active  to  rest  in  vacuity, 
and  his  love  of  books  too  strong  to  be  conquered  by 
the  routine  of  a  barber's  shop.  It  was  his  custom  to 
rise  at  four  in  the  morning,  and  from  that  hour  till 
called  to  his  master's  service,  he  was  busy  in  read- 
ing such  books  as  he  could  collect  from  the  cheap 
stalls  or  borrow  from  his  friends. 


His  thoughts  early  took  a  religious  bias,  and  after 
going  to  London  a  constant  attendance  on  public 
worship  was  among  his  greatest  pleasures.  Gill, 
Guise,  Romaine,  and  Whitfield  were  his  favourite 
preachers.  His  diary  at  this  time  indicates  no  small 
degree  of  religious  enthusiasm,  and  proves  him  to 
have  gradually  attached  himself  to  the  methodists. 
Whitfield,  in  short,  was  his  adviser  and  friend,  to 
whom  he  applied  in  all  cases  of  spiritual  difficulty, 
and  with  whom  he  familiarly  corresponded.  On  one  oc- 
casion Whitfield  read  to  his  congregation  at  the  Taber- 
nacle two  of  Robinson's  letters,  while  the  writer  was 
present.  Encouraged  by  the  favourable  opinion  of 
so  distinguished  a  man,  and  moved  by  the  advice  of 
his  friends,  it  is  not  a  matter  of  surprise  that  he 
should  begin  to  think  himself  destined  to  walk  in  a 
broader  sphere,  than  the  one  on  which  he  was  en- 

So  great,  indeed,  was  the  esteem  and  respect 
which  he  gained  by  his  genius  and  good  character, 
that  his  master  was  not  reluctant  to  comply  with  the 
general  voice,  and  give  up  his  indentures.  At  the  age 
of  nineteen  he  commenced  preaching  among  the 
methodists.  His  youth,  his  amiable  manners,  his 
vivacity  and  native  eloquence  drew  around  him  many 
hearers,  and  gave  a  charm  to  his  preaching,  which 
could  not  fail  to  please.  His  voice  was  clear  and 
melodious,  his  elocution  easy  and  distinct,  his  lan- 
guage flowing,  and  all  his  external  accomplishments 


engaging.  These  advantages,  heightened  by  a  liberal 
degree  of  youthful  enthusiasm,  crowned  his  first 
efforts  with  success,  and  animated  his  future  exer- 
tions. He  spared  no  pains  to  cultivate  the  powers 
which  nature  had  bestowed  on  him,  and  frequently 
declaimed  by  the  hour  in  private,  that  he  might  ac- 
quire the  habit  of  a  ready  delivery,  and  a  free  use  of 
language.  In  this  practice  the  foundation  was  laid 
of  his  subsequent  eminence  as  a  public  speaker.  He 
thought  no  time  mispent,  which  prepared  him  for 
winning  the  ear  and  gaining  the  hearts  of  his  audi- 
ence, and  thus  more  effectually  discharging  the  du- 
ties of  his  sacred  office. 

Among  the  methodists  Mr  Robinson  preached 
chiefly  in  Norwich,  and  different  parts  of  Norfolk 
and  Cambridgeshire.  While  thus  employed  he  re- 
sisted a  temptation,  which  deserves  to  be  recorded  as 
a  proof  of  his  early  integrity  and  strength  of  principle. 
He  had  been  educated  in  the  established  church,  and 
had  not  joined  himself  to  the  dissenters  without  ex- 
amining the  causes  and  nature  of  their  dissent.  When 
his  talents  and  virtues  had  gained  him  a  name  in  the 
world,  some  of  his  relations,  who  seem  to  have  for- 
gotten him  before,  made  an  attempt  to  bring  him  back 
to  the  episcopal  church.  The  following  incident  is 
mentioned  by  Dr  Rees,  the  learned  editor  of  the 
Cyclopaedia,  in  his  sermon  preached  on  the  occasion 
of  Mr  Rob  nson's  death.  "  A  rich  relation,  who 
had  promised  to  provide  liberally  for  him,   and  who 


had  bequeathed  him  a  considerable  sum  in  his  will, 
threatened  to  deprive  him  of  every  advantage  which 
he  had  been  encouraged  to  expect,  unless  he  quitted 
his  connexion  with  the  dissenters  ;  but  the  rights  of 
conscience,  and  the  approbation  of  God  were  superior, 
in  his  regard,  to  every  worldly  consideration  ;  he  pre- 
servi  d  his  integrity,  steadily  maintained  his  princi- 
ples, and  persevered  in  his  connexion  with  the  dis- 
senters, but  forfeited  the  favour  of  his  relation,  and 
every  advantage,  which,  living  or  dying,  he  had  in  his 
power  to  bestow."*  This  conduct  was  consistent 
with  his  character  through  life.  A  high-minded  in- 
dependence, conscientious  regard  for  truth  and  lib- 
erty, and  unyielding  adherence  to  his  religious  im- 
pressions, were  among  the  shining  virtues,  which 
never  forsook  him. 

The  causes  leading  to  his  separation  from  the 
methodists  are  not  distinctly  known,  but  he  had  not 
preached  with  them  more  than  two  years,  when,  at 
the  head  of  a  few  persons  associated  for  the  purpose, 
he  formed  an  independent  society  in  Norwich.  At 
this  time  he  was  a  Calvinist,  and  constructed  the  con- 
fession of  faith  for  his  new  society  on  Calvinistic  prin- 
ciples. He  adopted  the  rules  and  discipline  com- 
mon to  othe  independent  churches,  and  administered 
the  ordinances  after  the  same  manner. 

*■  Dr    Rees'  Sermon  en    the  Death  of  Mr  Robert  Robinson, 
p.  59. 


In  the  year  1759,  not  long  after  this  society  was 
organized,  Mr  Robinson  was  invited  to  take  charge 
of  a  Baptist  congregation  at  Cambridge.  He  was 
already  convinced,  that  adults  only  were  the  proper 
subjects  of  baptism,  and  he  had  himself  been  baptized 
by  immersion.  The  Cambridge  society  was  small, 
and  the  pecuniary  circumstances  of  its  members  such, 
as  to  afford  him  no  more  than  a  very  scanty  support. 
When  he  commenced  preaching  in  Cambridge  he 
was  twenty-three  years  of  age,  and  two  years  after- 
wards he  was  ordained  according  to  the  usual  mode 
of  the  dissenters.  He  had  been  married  a  little 
before  to  a  young  lady  of  Norwich. 

Mr  Robinson's  own  account  of  his  settlement, 
written  at  a  later  period  of  his  life,  will  show  his 
prospects  to  have  been  not  the  most  flattering.  In 
reference  to  this  subject  he  observes  ;  "  The  settle- 
ment of  Robinson  seems  rather  a  romantic,  than 
rational  undertaking,  for  this  pastor  was  to  be  main- 
tained. He  had  not  received  above  ten  guineas  from 
his  own  family  for  some  years ;  he  had  no  future 
prospect  of  receiving  any  j  his  grandfather  had  cut 
him  off  with  a  legacy  of  half  a  guinea.  He  had 
received  only  a  hundred  pounds  with  his  wife,  and 
this  he  had  diminished  among  the  methodists.  He 
had  never  inquired  what  his  congregation  would  allow 
him,  nor  had  any  body  proposed  any  thing.  They 
had  paid  him  for  the  first  half-year,  three  pounds 
twelve  shillings  and  five  pence  ;  they  had  increased 


since,  but  not  enough  to  maintain  him  frugally ;  there 
was  no  prospect  of  so  poor  a  people  supplying  him 
long,  especially  should  his  family  increase,  which  it 
was  likely  to  do.  Besides,  the  congregation,  through 
the  libertinism  of  many  of  its  former  members,  had 
acquired  a  bad  character.  These  would  have  been 
insurmountable  difficulties  to  an  older  and  wiser  man  ; 
but  he  was  a  boy,  and  the  love  of  his  flock  was  a 
million  to  him.  His  settlement,  therefore,  on  this 
article,  should  be  no  precedent  for  future  settle- 

The  situation  here  described  could  have  few 
charms  for  a  man  who  had  set  his  heart  on  the  things 
of  this  world,  or  whose  fancy  was  quickened  by  the 
kindling  visions  of  power  and  fame.  But  Robinson 
was  not  such  a  man.  He  loved  his  profession,  and 
every  motive  of  self-aggrandizement  was  absorbed  in 
the  deeper  and  purer  desire  of  witnessing  the  growth 
of  piety,  good  order,  and  happiness  among  his  peo- 
ple. His  congregation  grew  larger,  and  the  time 
came  when  his  annual  income  was  increased  to  more 
than  ninety  pounds.  At  first  he  lived  at  Fulbourn, 
five  miles  from  the  place  of  his  sabbath  duties,  where 
he  contracted  an  acquaintance  with  Mr  Graves,  a 
gentleman  of  property  and  benevolence,  from  whom 
he  received  many  substantial  tokens  of  friendship. 

He  next  removed  to  Hauxton,  about  the  same  dis- 
tance from  Cambridge,  where  he  resided  for  several 
years,   the  tenant   of  an  humble  cottage,    devoted 


assiduously  to  his  professional  labours,  and  providing 
for  the  support  of  a  numerous  family,  and  an  aged 
mother.  His  disinterested  ardour,  his  kindness  to  the 
poor,  his  love  of  doing  good,  and  his  unwearied  ac- 
tivity in  making  himself  useful,  attracted  to  him  the 
notice  of  all  the  respectable  part  of  the  community, 
and  quickened  the  generosity  of  some  worthy  and 
opulent  persons.  On  the  sabbath  he  often  preached 
three  times,  and  during  the  week  several  times  in  the 
neighbouring  villages.  He  was  intimate  with  all  the 
surrounding  clergy  among  the  dissenters,  and  had  for 
his  early  companions  Roland  Hill  and  Charles  de 
Coetlogon.  His  congregation  increased  so  much, 
that  a  more  commodious  place  of  worship  was  found 
necessary,  and  the  pastor  was  highly  gratified  with  the 
promptness  and  unanimity  with  which  it  was  erected. 
In  the  midst  of  his  professional  labours  he  was  a 
diligent  student  in  theology  and  literature.  Free 
access  to  the  libraries  of  the  University  of  Cam- 
bridge, and  conversation  with  the  learned  men  resid- 
ing there,  enabled  him  to  pursue  his  studies  with 
advantage.  He  was  an  admirer  of  Saurin,  and  in 
1770  translated  and  published  two  of  his  sermons. 
These  were  sent  out  as  specimens,  which,  if  approv- 
ed, he  promised  should  be  the  forerunners  of  others. 
The  success  of  his  project  was  quite  equal  to  his  ex- 
pectation, and  he  afterwards  translated  at  different 
times  five  volumes  of  sermons  selected  from  Saurin. 
These  have   gone   through  several  editions,   and  to- 



gether  with  a  sixth  volume  by  Hunter,  and  a  seventh 
by  SutclifFe,  they  constitute  the  works  of  .  Saurin, 
as  they  now  appear  in  the  English  dress. 

While  residing  in  the  cottage  at  Hauxton  he  also 
published  his  Arcana,  or  the  Principles  of  the  late 
Petitioners  to  Parliament  for  Relief  in  Matter  of 
Subscription,  in  eight  Letters  to  a  Friend.  These 
letters  were  adapted  to  the  times,  and  attracted  a 
lively  attention.  The  dissenters  were  making  all  pos- 
sible exertions  to  have  the  law  repealed,  which  re- 
quired from  them  subscription  to  the  articles.  Pres- 
byterians and  Baptists,  orthodox  and  heterodox, 
united  their  forces  to  abolish  a  law,  which  operated 
with  equal  severity  on  them  all,  and  which  was  in 
itself  so  flagrant  an  encroachment  on  justice,  liberty, 
the  rights  of  conscience,  and  the  claims  of  humanity. 
All  rallied  under  the  same  banner,  and  cried  out  with 
one  voice  against  the  oppression  which  weighed  them 
down,  till,  after  many  unsuccessful  struggles,  their' 
voice  was  heard,  their  petitions  heeded,  and  dissent- 
ing ministers  and  schoolmasters  were  allowed  the 
privilege  of  prosecuting  their  peaceful  avocations 
without  violating  their  conscience  by  subscribing  the 
Thirty-nine  Articles,  or  subjecting  themselves  to  a  civil 
penalty  by  resisting  so  unholy  a  requisition.  During 
the  struggle  for  christian  freedom  the  above  letters 
were  written.  Clothed  in  a  language  always  sprightly, 
sometimes  adorned  with  glowing  imagery,  sometimes 
rising  with  the  majesty  of  argument,  and  at  others 


pungent  with  satire,  they  were  well  calculated  for 
popular  effect.  They  enter  largely  into  the  chief 
points  of  the  controversy,  and  bating  some  defects  of 
style,  and  perhaps  occasional  faults  of  sentiment,  it 
will  be  rare  to  find  a  more  ingenious  vindication  of 
the  rights  and  privileges  of  christian  liberty. 

Robinson  left  Hauxton  in  1773,  and  settled  at 
Chesterton  within  two  miles  of  Cambridge.  This 
brought  him  nearer  to  the  centre  of  his  parochial 
charge,  and  the  facilities  for  his  literary  pursuits  were 
multiplied  by  his  proximity  to  the  university.  But 
his  income  was  not  yet  adequate  to  support  a  family 
of  nine  children,  and  he  was  compelled  to  look 
around  him  for  other  sources  of  emolument.  He 
turned  his  attention  to  agriculture.  By  rigid  econo- 
my, personal  inspection  of  his  affairs,  judicious  invest- 
ments, and  a  spirit  of  enterprise  that  never  slumber- 
ed, he  found  himself  in  a  few  years  a  thriving  farmer, 
and  had  the  joy  to  feel,  that  by  the  blessing  of  Pro- 
vidence his  numerous  family  was  beyond  the  grasp  of 
want,  and  the  caprice  of  fortune.  Mr  Dyer  thus 
speaks  of  his  character  as  a  farmer  and  economist. 
"  It  would  be  no  less  agreeable  than  instructive  to 
survey  his  rural  economy,  and  domestic  arrange- 
ments in  his  new  situation  ;  the  versatility  of  his 
genius  was  uncommon  ;  and  whether  he  was  making 
a  bargain,  repairing  a  house,  stocking  a  farm,  giving 
directions  to  workmen,  or  assisting  their  labours, 
he  was  the  same  invariable  man,   displaying  no  less 


vigour  in  the  execution  of  his  plans,  than  ingenuity  in 
their  contrivance.  The  readiness  with  which  he  pass- 
ed from  literary  pursuits  to  rural  occupations,  from 
rural  occupations  to  domestic  engagements,  from 
domestic  engagements  to  the  forming  of  plans  for  dis- 
senting ministers,  to  the  settling  of  churches,  to  the 
solving  of  cases  of  conscience,  to  the  removing  of  the 
difficulties  of  ignorant,  or  softening  the  asperities  of 
quarrelsome  brethren,  was  surprising."*  This  is 
the  language  of  one  who  lived  near  him,  for  many- 
years,  and  saw  him  often. 

His  professional  duties  were  numerous.  Those 
pertaining  to  his  own  parish  made  but  a  part.  He 
was  invited  to  attend  ordinations  in  all  the  counties 
around  him  ;  his  judgment  was  respected  and  his  ad- 
vice sought  in  cases  of  differences  between  churches  ; 
he  was  the  counsellor  of  his  parishioners  in  their  tem- 
poral as  well  as  spiritual  concerns ;  the  watchful 
guardian  of  the  unprotected  and  distressed  ;  the  pa- 
tron and  benevolent  friend  of  the  poor.  These  calls 
of  duty  did  not  relax  his  literary  ardour.  He  went 
on  with  his  translations  of  Saurin,  printed  now  and 
then  an  occasional  sermon  of  his  own,  and,  at  the  re- 
quest of  two  or  three   eminent  gentlemen,   wrote  a 

*  Dyer's  Life  of  Robinson,  p.  98.  This  work  was  published  in 
1796,  by  a  person  well  acquainted  with  Robinson  ;  but  it  is  a 
work  singularly  defective  in  arrangement,  wanting  in  interest,  and 
barren  of  incidents,  considering  the  opportunities  and  materials 
with  which  the  author  was  favoured. 


treatise  on  affinities  in  marriage,  which  was  highly 
commended  by  jurists,  as  marked  by  an  acute  dis- 
crimination and  force  of  argument. 

About  the  year  1776,  Robinson  published  his  Plea 
for  the  Divinity  of  Christ.  This  topic  was  now 
much  agitated  by  reason  of  the  late  resignation  of 
Lindsey  and  Jebb  for  scruples  of  conscience  con- 
cerning the  trinity.  Robinson's  Plea  is  drawn  up 
with  ingenuity,  in  a  popular  style,  and  winning  man- 
ner. The  arguments  are  less  sound  than  specious  ; 
they  take  names  for  things,  and  rest  on  deductions 
which  go  not  beneath  the  surfaee  of  the  Scriptures ; 
in  the  balance  with  just  criticism  they  lose  their 
weight  and  their  substance.  In  the  eyes  of  a  certain 
class  of  trinitarians  they  were  masterly,  because  with 
more  than  common  skill  they  defended  an  old  ground, 
which  it  was  thought  difficult  to  maintain  much  lon- 
ger, and  which,  in  truth,  has  since  been  nearly  aban- 
doned. But  even  this  popular  treatise  did  not  please 
all  parties.  None  withheld  from  the  author  the  merit 
of  ingenuity  ;  some  professed  to  admire  the  force  and 
accuracy  of  his  reasoning  ;  while  others  were  troubled 
with  a  kind  of  indefinable  suspicion,  that  he  had 
stopped  short  of  the  desired  object.  These  latter 
seem  to  have  been  alarmed,  that  the  author  wras  so 
sparing  of  the  fire  and  rage  of  controversy.  Robin- 
son observes  in  writing  to  a  friend,  "  The  temper  of 
the  Plea  has  procured  me  a  deal  of  blame  from  the 
good    folks,  who  inhabit  the  torrid   zone."     These 


zealous  partisans  were  not  satisfied,  that  lie  should 
win  the  day,  unless  he  carried  war  with  flames  and 
sword  into  the  conquered  enemy's  camp. 

Others,  however,  were  of  a  different  mind,  and  the 
author  received  a  profusion  of  complementary  letters 
from  dignitaries  in  the  established  church.  It  was 
whispered,  and  more  than  once  proclaimed  aloud,  as 
a  thing  to  be  lamented,  that  such  a  man  should  be  a 
dissenter,  and  waste  his  days  in  strolling  with  a  be- 
wildered flock  beyond  the  enclosures  of  the  true  faith. 
Gilded  offers  were  made  to  him,  if  he  would  have 
the  conscience  to  slide  out  of  his  errors,  go  up  from 
the  unseemly  vale  of  poverty,  and  take  his  rest  on 
the  commanding  eminence  of  church  preferment. 
To  these  overtures  he  was  deaf;  from  his  principles 
he  could  not  be  moved.  When  Dr  Ogden  said  to 
him,  in  trying  to  unsettle  his  purpose,  "  Do  the  dis- 
senters know  the  worth  of  the  man  f"  he  replied, 
"  The  man  knows  the  worth  of  the  dissenters."  This 
reply  he  verified  by  his  warm  devoted ness  to  their 
interests  through  life.  He  received  many  letters  ap- 
proving his  work  from  persons  not  belonging  to  the 
episcopal  church,  especially  his  Baptist  associates  in 
the  ministry. 

The  Plea  was  answered  by  Lindsey,  but  Robinson 
never  replied  ;  nor  did  he  write  any  more  in  defence 
of  the  divinity  of  Christ,  Whether  influenced  by 
Lindsey's  arguments,  or  whether  his  own  examina- 
tion of  the  subject  had  supplied  him  weaker  grounds 


than  he  expected,  or  whether  his  mind  received  a 
bias  from  any  other  quarter,  it  is  certain  that  his  senti- 
ments about  that  time  underwent  a  change.  During 
the  latter  years  of  his  life  he  rejected  the  trinity,  and 
believed  in. the  subordinate  nature  of  Christ. 

The  year  after  the  Plea,  Robinson  published  a 
curious  tract,  entitled  the  History  and  Mistery  of 
Good  Friday.  In  this  pamphlet  he  traces  back  the 
church  holidays  to  their  origin,  and  proves  them  for 
the  most  part  to  have  arisen  out  of  heathen,  or  Jew- 
ish practices,  and  to  derive  no  authority  from  the 
christian  religion.  It  contains  a  severe,  and  some- 
what rough  philippic  against  the  church  of  England, 
which  boasts  of  being  reformed,  and  having  cast  off 
the  abuses  of  the  Romish  church,  while  yet  many 
are  cherished,  as  unwarrantable  and  pernicious  as 
those  severed  from  the  old  stock.  This  tract  was 
exceedingly  popular,  and  ran  speedily  through  seve- 
ral editions. 

But  the  work,  which  produced  greater  excitement 
than  any  of  our  author's  writings,  was  a  Plan  of  Lec- 
tures on  the  Principles  of  Nonconformity,  publish- 
ed in  1778.  Within  a  moderate  compass,  it  embra- 
ces all  the  points  of  controversy  between  the  estab- 
lished church  and  the  dissenters.  Its  manner  is  orig- 
inal and  striking.  The  time  of  its  appearance  was 
favourable  to  its  currency  and  interest,  for  the  dis- 
senters' bill  was  then  pending  in  parliament.  In  the 
House  of  Lords  this  Plan  of  Lectures  was  honourably 


mentioned  by  Lord  Shelburne,  and  in  the  House  of 
Commons,  Burke  read  passages  from  it,  which  he  at- 
tempted to  turn  to  the  disadvantage  of  the  petitioners. 
Fox  repelled  his  attack,  and  foiled  his  attempt. 
Many  articles  were  written  against  it,  and,  among 
others,  strictures  by  Mr  Burgess,  prebendary  of  Win- 
chester. Robinson  replied  to  none,  except  the  latter, 
on  which  he  bestowed  a  few  remarks  in  his  preface 
to  the  fifth  edition. 

The  next  literary  enterprise  of  Robinson  was  his 
translation  of  Claude's  Essay  on  the  Composition  of 
a  Sermon.  To  this  essay  the  translator  added  a 
life  of  the  author,  remarks  on  the  history  of  preach- 
ing, and  a  vast  body  of  notes,  making  together  two 
thick  volumes.  The  notes  are  written  in  the  author's 
peculiar  manner,  full  of  spirit  and  vivacity,  and  dis- 
cover a  prodigious  extent  of  reading.  Some  of  them 
are  valuable,  many  are  highly  entertaining,  but  they 
seem  to  have  been  hastily  thrown  together,  and  col- 
lected with  too  little  discrimination.  They  occa- 
sionally descend  to  trifling  incidents,  anecdotes,  and 
inapposite  reflections,  equally  offensive  to  good  taste, 
and  barren  of  instruction.  But  with  all  these  defects, 
Robinson's  original  edition  is  vastly  preferable  to 
those  coming  after,  in  which  the  editors  took  the  lib- 
erty to  abridge  the  notes,  and  add  others  of  their 
own.  In  the  Rev.  Charles  Simeon's  edition,  the 
notes  are  chiefly  omitted,  and  their  place  supplied 
by  skeletons  of  his  own  sermons. 


Mr  Robinson's  celebrated  volume  of  Village  Ser- 
mons was  published  in  1786.  We  have  already  ob- 
served, that  it  was  his  custom  to  preach  in  the  neigh- 
bouring villages,  and  frequently  he  tarried  at  a  place 
over  night,  and  held  religious  service  early  in  the 
morning,  before  the  labourers  were  gone  to  their 
work.  In  summer  these  exercises  were  conducted 
in  the  open  air,  and  fully  attended.  The  above  \o\~ 
ume  is  composed  of  discourses  delivered  on  these 
occasions,  and  written  out  afterwards  as  dictated  by 
the  author  to  an  amanuensis.  They  had  evidently 
been  prepared  with  care  in  his  own  mind,  and  they 
contain  a  copiousness  of  language,  a  felicity  of  illus- 
tration, and  a  readiness  in  quoting  and  applying  ap- 
propriate passages  of  scripture,  rarely  to  be  witnessed. 
They  were  framed  for  a  particular  purpose,  that  of 
enlightening  and  improving  the  less  informed  classes 
of  society  ;  and  whoever  reads  them  will  not  wonder, 
that  this  purpose  was  attained,  and  that  even  those 
for  whom  the  things  of  the  world  had  attractions 
should  resign  for  an  hour  the  labour  of  gain,  and  lis- 
ten with  delight,  to  the  persuasive  accents  of  the 
preacher.  They  maybe  read  with  profit  by  all,  who 
love  to  contemplate  the  workings  of  a  powerful  mind 
in  recommending  and  enforcing  the  principles  of  a 
holy  religion,  who  are  captivated  with  the  inventions 
of  genius,  the  current  of  a  natural  eloquence,  sound 
words  uttered  in  the  spirit  of  christian  philanthropy, 
and  sentiments  breathing  the  influence  of  a  rational, 
fervent  piety. 


The  last  works  in  which  our  author  was  engaged 
were  the  History  of  Baptism,  and  his  Ecclesiastical 
Researches.  These  were  also  his  largest  works,  each 
making  a  closely  printed  quarto  volume.  It  had 
long  been  a  source  of  regret  among  the  Baptists, 
that  no  full  and  authentic  history  of  their  brethren 
existed,  and  that  their  opinions,  character,  and  pro- 
gress had  never  been  represented  to  the  world  in  the 
light  they  deserved.  It  was  at  length  resolved  by 
some  of  the  leading  members  of  this  denomination  to 
supply  the  deficiency,  and  appoint  a  suitable  person 
to  write  a  copious  and  accurate  history.  The  gen- 
eral voice  fixed  on  Robinson,  and  in  17S1  he  was 
invited  by  an  authorized  committee  to  undertake  the 
task.  He  complied  with  the  request,  and  immediate- 
ly set  himself  about  the  gigantic  labour  of  wading 
through  the  ecclesiastical  records  of  ancient  and  mod- 
ern times,  appalled  neither  by  the  lumber  of  antiqui- 
ty, nor  the  mountains  of  volumes,  which  have  been 
raised  by  the  prolific  industry  of  later  ages. 

That  he  might  have  a  more  ready  access  to  scarce 
books,  it  was  a  part  of  his  plan  to  reside  a  few  days 
in  every  month  in  London.  This  design,  however, 
was  soon  given  up  as  impracticable,  for  so  much  was 
he  sought  after  as  a  preacher,  that  he  found  his  at- 
tention perpetually  diverted  from  his  studies.  Ap- 
pointments were  made  by  his  friends  for  preaching 
every  day  in  the  week,  and  so  slowly  did  his  history 
advance  in  the  midst  of  these  interruptions  that  he. 


was  glad  to  escape  from  them  to  his  farm,  his  family, 
and  his  people,  in  the  country.  Here  he  was  kindly 
favoured  with  books  from  the  university,  and  occa- 
sionally from  London,  and  here  he  completed  the 
History  of  Baptism. 

This  volume  was  chiefly  printed  before  the  author's 
death,  but  not  published  till  after  that  event.  It  con- 
tains a  vast  fund  of  historical  knowledge  on  the  sub- 
ject which  he  professes  to  treat,  and  indicates  an 
uncommonly  deep  and  patient  examination.  The 
Ecclesiastical  Researches  was  a  posthumous  work, 
and  having  been  left  in  an  unfinished  state,  is  in 
many  respects  imperfect.  It  contains  some  curious 
facts  relating  to  the  history  of  the  existence  and  pro- 
gress of  the  principles  of  religious  liberty  and  a  ra- 
tional faith  during  the  early  periods  of  Christianity, 
and  throughout  the  dark  ages.  It  proves,  that 
these  principles  were  never  extinct  in  the  gloom- 
iest times,  but  that  they  were  cherished  in  the 
hearts  of  a  few  sincere,  secluded  worshippers,  who 
were  either  too  remote  from  the  public  eye  to  be  ob- 
served, or  too  insignificant  to  draw  down  upon  them- 
selves the  wrath  of  bigotry,  or  the  rod  of  persecution. 
In  this  respect  the  Ecclesiastical  Researches  supplies 
a  valuable  link  in  the  history  of  the  church.  But  on 
the  whole,  neither  this  nor  the  History  of  Baptism,  is 
equal  to  the  author's  other  performances.  While 
preparing  them  it  is  evident  his  mind  had  lost  much 
of  its  former  vigour,  and  was  approaching  that  state 


of  inefficiency,  which  it  was  the  melancholy  lot  of  his 
friends  to  contemplate  in  the  latter  days  of  his  life. 
However  much  the  cause  of  truth  may  have  gained 
by  these  works,  they  have  added  little  to  the  author's 

During  the  last  year  of  Robinson's  life,  his  health 
and  his  intellect  gave  symptoms  of  a  rapid  decline. 
Of  this  he  appeared  to  be  fully  aware,  for  to  a  friend, 
who  visited  him  not  long  before  his  death,  he  said, 
"You  are  come  to  see  only  the  shadow  of  Robert 
Robinson."  In  the  spring  of  1790  he  engaged  to 
preach  the  charity  sermons  for  the  benefit  of  the  dis- 
senting schools  at  Birmingham.  He  left  home  on 
the  second  day  of  June  in  a  languid  frame  of  body 
and  mind,  but  so  well  did  he  bear  the  fatigue  of  the 
journey,  that  he  preached  twice  on  the  following  sab- 
bath. On  Monday  evening  he  was  taken  ill,  and  his 
friends  were  alarmed  ;  but  he  gained  strength  the  next 
day.  He  retired  to  rest  late  in  the  evening,  after 
eating  his  supper  with  a  good  appetite,  and  by  the 
ease  and  cheerfulness  of  his  conversation  relieving 
those  around  him  from  all  apprehensions  of  immedi- 
ate danger.  But  how  frail  are  the  foundations  of  hu- 
man confidence,  how  deceitful  the  visions  of  human 
hope  !  When  the  morning  came  he  was  found  life- 
less in  his  bed.  His  features  were  tranquil,  and  his 
spirit  seemed  to  have  deserted  without  a  struggle  its 
mortal  tenement.  His  body  was  interred  at  Birming- 
ham, and  on  the  sabbath  following  a  discourse  adapt- 
ed to  the  occasion  was  preached  by  Dr  Priestlev. 


In  the  year  1807,  Mr  Flower  published  the  Mis- 
cellaneous Works  of  Robert  Robinson,  in  four  vol- 
umes, to  which  he  prefixed  a  brief  memoir  of  the 
author's  life  and  writings.  This  edition  comprises 
all  his  works,  except  the  History  of  Baptism,  Eccle- 
siastical Researches,  Village  Sermons,  and  Notes  to 
Claude.  Among  his  best  writings  are  the  prefaces  to 
the  several  volumes  of  Saurin,  especially  the  one  on 
Christian  Liberty.  The  Life  of  Claude  is  well  writ- 
ten, but  a  dissertation  on  public  preaching,  prefixed 
to  the  second  volume  of  Claude's  Essay,  although  it 
contains  some  novel  thoughts,  and  valuable  facts,  is 
imperfect,  and  obviously  put  together  from  ill  digest- 
ed materials.  This  remark,  indeed,  applies  to  sev- 
eral of  his  minor  pieces,  where  a  broader  plan  seems 
to  have  been  laid,  than  his  leisure  and  opportunities 
allowed  him  to  fill  up. 

In  selecting  articles  for  the  present  publication,  a 
range  has  been  taken  through  the  whole  of  the  au- 
thor's works,  nor  has  any  scruple  been  felt  in  omitting 
occasionally  such  paragraphs,  as  have  no  more  than 
a  remote  bearing  on  the  main  object  of  the  piece 
chosen.  The  author's  desultory  mode  of  writing, 
and  the  local  topics  sometimes  introduced,  have  ren- 
dered this  latitude  necessary. 

Among  the  numerous  excellencies  of  Robinson's 
style,  there  are  some  glaring  faults.  His  imagination 
is  brilliant  and  active,  but  it  rambles  without  license, 
and  luxuriates  without  moderation.    He  never  wants 


an  apposite  figure  to  illustrate  any  position,  but  his 
choice  is  frequently  ill-judged,  and  rests  on  low  im- 
ages unworthy  of  his  subject.  This  may  be  account- 
ed for,  perhaps,  from  the  circumstances  of  his  edu- 
cation, and  from  his  invariable  habit  of  bringing  down 
his  language  to  the  plain  country  people  to  whom  he 
preached.  Another  fault  is  want  of  method,  and 
looseness  of  reasoning.  This  fault  is  not  perpetual,  but 
it  occurs  too  often.  Logic  was  not  his  strongest  point ; 
he  loved  not  that  his  fancy  should  be  clogged  and 
hampered  by  the  trammels  of  the  schools  ;  he  chose 
a  path  of  his  own,  and  in  his  passion  for  freedom  was 
impatient  of  the  restraints  which  others  have  thought 
so  wholesome  a  branch  of  discipline,  and  so  useful 
in  checking  the  exuberance  of  a  prurient  imagina- 
tion, and  maturing  the  decisions  of  a  wayward  judg- 
ment. It  needs  hardly  be  added,  that  his  taste  par- 
took of  these  defects  ;  it  is  sometimes  bad,  and  often 
not  to  be  commended. 

But  these  are  small  imperfections  compared  with 
the  predominant  features  of  Robinson's  mind.  The 
comprehensive  views  which  he  took  of  every  subject, 
the  richness  and  abundance  of  his  thoughts,  the 
power  of  intellect  which  weighs  in  his  sentences,  the 
point  of  his  expressions,  the  varied  and  playful  al- 
though erratic  excursions  of  his  imagination  ;  and, 
above  all,  his  sincerity  and  ardour,  the  justness  of  his 
sentiments,  his  undisguised  manner,  his  benevolence, 
charity,  and  christian  temper,  his  independence  and 


love  of  freedom,  his  unconquerable  hostility  to  all 
religious  domination  under  whatever  name  or  charac- 
ter, his  aversion  to  bigotry  and  narrowness,  his  ad- 
herence to  the  simple  truths  of  the  Gospel ;  these 
give  a  charm  and  a  value  to  his  writings,  by  which 
none  can  fail  to  be  instructed  and  improved.  Who- 
ever would  look  for  pleasure  or  benefit  from  the  pro- 
ductions of  a  writer  with  traits  like  these,  will  find  his 
labour  well  rewarded  in  perusing  the  works  of  Rob- 
bert  Robinson. 




Legislation  is  doubtless  a  sacred  thing  ;  it  is  a 
divine  imitation  of  the  government  of  mankind,  and 
is  deservedly  assigned  to  the  first  in  birth,  property, 
and  skill ;  but,  the  history  of  all  nations  will  prove, 
that  in  parliaments,  as  in  paradise,  the  serpent  has  found 
a  way  to  corrupt  and  deprave.  Ignorance  or  interest, 
negligence  or  pride,  have  too  often  prevailed  over  the 
generous  principles  which  ought  to  influence  these  gods 
of  mankind  ;  and  one  age  has  been  driven  to  repeal 
the  laws  of  a  former  ;  so  that  perhaps  legislation  would 
furnish  a  large  history  of  the  extravagancies  of  the 
human  mind,  among  which  an  Act  of  Uniformity  would 
appear  one  of  the  greatest.  Britons  boast  of  their  laws, 
and  in  general  with  great  reason  ;  but  some  of  them 
blush  for  their  country  when  they  read  a  law  entitled 
an  Act  of  Uniformity. 

It  would  be   foreign    from  the   present  purpose  to 
inquire  the  origin  of  this  law  ;  it  may  be  more  proper 


to  show  that  religious  uniformity  is  an  impossibility, 
and  that  a  law  of  this  kind  can  neither  be  argued  from 
the  light  of  nature,  nor  from  the  holy  Scriptures. 
The  idea  of  uniformity  is  neither  the  idea  of  a  philos- 
opher, nor  of  a  christian.  The  fabricature  of  this  law 
therefore  by  men  who  had  a  just  right  to  both  these 
titles,  implies  a  moment's  absence. 

Sound  policy  requires  a  legislature  to  preserve  its 
dignity  ;  but  the  dignity  of  a  legislature  is  never  more 
prostituted  than  when  impracticable  edicts  are  issued. 
The  dignity  of  legislation  depends  more  on  enforcing, 
than  on  inventing  a  law ;  the  latter  may  be  done  by 
a  pedant  in  his  study,  but  the  first  must  have  power, 
property,  magistracy,  penalty,  in  a  word,  authority  to 
support  it ;  and  this  energy  is  its  dignity.  Where  a 
tax  is  levied  which  the  people  cannot  pay ;  where  a 
kind  of  obedience  is  required  which  the  people  can- 
not yield  ;  the  legislators  are  forced  to  dispense  with 
the  obedience  required.  And  what  follows?  the 
people  despise  a  folly  which  could  not  foresee,  a  nar- 
rowness of  capacity  which  could  not  comprehend,  a 
timidity  which  dares  not,  or  a  weakness  which  cannot 
enforce  its  decrees.  Did  not  all  Europe  deride  the 
absurdity  of  those  magistrates,  who,  in  the  reign  of  Ma- 
ry, cited  to  their  commissioners,  Fagius  and  Bueer,  who 
were  both  dead  and  buried,  to  appear  and  give  an  ac- 
count of  their  faith  ?  and,  as  if  that  was  not  quite 
ridiculous  enough,  caused  their  bones  to  be  dug  up 
out  of  their  graves  and  burnt  for  non-appearance  ! 


Aut  nunquam  tentes,  aut  perfice,  is  an  excellent 
motto,  and  nowhere  more  rationally  applied  than  in 
the  matter  of  law-making.  Had  this  been  attended 
to,  (but  who  that  attends  to  the  transactions  of  the 
year  1559,  can  wonder  that  it  was  not?)  an  act  of 
uniformity  could  never  have  been  passed.  The  im- 
possibility of  enforcing  it  might  have  been  foreseen  ; 
nor  ought  it  to  be  wondered  at  if  five  years  after, 
"  her  Majesty  was  informed,  that  some  received  the 
communion  kneeling,  others  standing,  others  sitting. 
Some  baptized  in  a  font,  some  in  a  bason  ;  some  sign- 
ed with  the  sign  of  the  cross,  others  not."  In  vain 
the  queen  attempted  to  enforce  the  act  by  penalties ; 
in  vain  have  succeeding  princes  endeavoured  to  en- 
force it ;  in  vain  were  the  formidable  forces  of  oaths, 
subscriptions,  fines,  and  prisons  brought  into  the  field; 
cruelty  and  lenity,  madness  and  moderation,  the  gen- 
tleness of  the  eighteenth,  and  the  rage  of  the  seven- 
teenth century  have  been  employed  in  vain  5  the  act 
stands  disobeyed  and  unrepealed  to  this  day. 

Make  religion  what  you  will  ;  let  it  be  speculation, 
let  it  be  practice  ;  make  it  faith,  make  it  fancy  ;  let 
it  be  reason,  let  it  be  passion  ;  let  it  be  what  you  will ; 
uniformity  in  it  is  not  to  be  expected.  Philosophy 
is  a  stranger  to  it,  and  Christianity  disowns  it. 

A  philosopher  holds  that  the  system  of  the  uni- 
verse is  perfect  ;  that  the  duty  and  glory  of  man  is 
to  follow,  not  force  nature  ;  that  moral  philosophy  is 
nothing  but  a  harmony  of  the  world  of  spirit  with  the 


world  of  matter  ;  that  all  the  fine  descriptions  of  vir- 
tue are  nothing  but  essays  on  this  conformity  ;  thus 
he  proves  that  moral  evil  is  the  production  of  natural 
evil,  moral  good  the  production  of  natural  good.  A 
philosopher  would  say  to  a  legislator,  as  the  poet  to  a 
man  of  taste  : 

To  build,  to  plant,  whatever  yon  intend, 
To  rear  the  column,  or  the  arch  to  bend, 
To  swell  the  terrace,  or  to  sink  the  grot, 
In  all,  let  nature  never  be  forgot. 

Give  a  philosopher  a  farm,  and  enjoin  him  to  cultivate 
it  enphilosophe,  he  will  study  the  soil,  the  situation,  the 
seasons,  and  so  on  ;  and,  having  comprehended  what 
his  farm  is  capable  of,  he  will  improve  it  accordingly. 
In  the  same  manner  he  directs  his  garden,  and  every 
plant  in  it,  never  expecting  to  gather  grapes  of  thorns, 
nor  Jigs  of  thistles.  What  would  he,  yea,  what 
would  the  unphilosophized  farmers  say  of  an  act  for 
the  uniformity  of  husbandry  ?  An  act  of  uniformity, 
say  the  honest  rustics,  what's  that  ?  What's  that ! 
Why,  you  must  grow  nothing  but  wheat.  How  !  say 
they,  some  of  our  lands  are  too  light,  they  will  pro- 
duce none  ;  we  can  grow  rye  there  indeed  ;  we  have 
some  even  not  worth  ploughing  for  rye  ;  however 
they  will  serve  for  a  sheep-walk,  or  at  worst  for  a 
rabbit-warren.  Thus  nature  teaches  men  to  reason 
and  thus  they  reason  right. 

Go  a  step  farther.     Make  this  philosopher  a  tutor, 
and  commit  to  his  tuition   a  company  of  youths  ;  he 


will  no  more  think  of  uniforming  these  young  gentle- 
men, than  of  teaching  his  horse  to  fly,  or  his  parrot 
to  swim.  Their  geniuses  differ,  says  he,  and  1  must 
diversify  their  educations  ;  nature  has  formed  this 
for  elocution,  and  that  for  action.  And,  should  the 
blind  fondness  of  parents  complain,  his  answer  is  ready, 
ivhatwas  I,  that  I  could  withstand  Godl  in  short, 
place  such  a  man  in  what  disinterested  sphere  you 
will,  and  his  principles  guide  his  practice  ;  except  in- 
deed he  should  be  chosen  to  represent  a  county  ;  then 
probably,  not  having  the  fear  of  philosophy  before  his 
eyes,  he  mi^ht  vote  for  an  act  of  uniformity, 

A  law  that  requires  uniformity,  either  requires  men 
to  be  of  the  same  sentiments,  or  to  practise  the  same 
ceremonies.  Now  if  it  should  appear  that  the  first  is 
impossible,  the  last  will  fall  of  itself.  For  then  the 
question  will  be,  ought  two  men,  who  confessedly 
differ  in  sentiment,  to  profess  that  they  agree  ?  Ought 
an  honest  man  to  be  one  thing,  and  appear  another  ? 
Heaven  forbid  that  any  should  maintain  so  dangerous 
a  thesis  ! 

You  are  a  man  of  extensive  knowledge  ;  you  know 
the  ancient  and  modern  creeds ;  you  remember  that 
Harry  the  Eighth  enjoined  "  all  preachers  to  instruct 
the  people  to  believe  the  whole  bible,  the  three 
creeds,  the  Apostles',  the  JVicene,  and  the  Athana- 
sian,  and  to  interpret  all  things  according  to  them." 
You  know  that  in  Edward  the  Sixth's  reign,  two-and- 
forty  articles,  drawn  up  by  Cranmer  and  Ridley, 


were  thought  necessary  to  be  published,  for  the  avoid- 
ing diversity  of  opinions,  and  establishing  consent 
touching  triw  religion.  In  the  beginning  of  Eliza- 
beth's reign,  you  know,  eleven  articles  were  "  set 
out  by  order  of  both  archbishops,  metropolitans,  and 
the  rest  of  the  bishops,  for  the  unity  of  doctrine  to  be 
taught  and  hoi  den  o/all  persons,  vicars  and  curates; 
as  well  in  testification  of  their  common  consent  in 
the  said  doctrine,  to  the  stopping  of  the  mouths  of  them 
that  go  about  to  slander  the  ministers  of  the  charch 
for  diversity  of  judgment,  ^c."  Two  years  after,  all 
the  former  were  reviewed,  and  the  whole  bible, 
the  three  creeds,  the  two-and-forty  articles,  and 
the  eleven  articles,  were  collected  into  one  aggre- 
gate sum,  and  made  thirty-nine.  Subscription  to 
these  has  been  essential  ever  since,  which  subscrip- 
tion is  an  argument  (as  his  Majesty's  declaration  says) 
that  all  clergymen  agree  in  the  true,  usual,  literal 
meaning  of  the  said  articles. 

Whatever  be  the  true  meaning  of  these  articles,  it 
is  not  only  certain  that  clergymen  explain,  and  con- 
sequently believe  them  in  different  and  even  contra- 
ry senses  ;  but  it  is  also  credible  that  no  thirty-nine 
articles  can  be  invented  by  the  wit  of  man,  which 
thirty-nine  men  can  exactly  agree  in.  It  is  not  ob- 
stinacy, it  is  necessity. 

Suppose  the  thirty-nine  articles  to  contain  a  given 
number  of  ideas,  and,  for  argument's  sake,  sup- 
pose that  number  to  be  fifty  ;  suppose  the   capacities 


of  men  to  differ,  as  they  undoubtedly  do,  and  one 
man's  intelligence  to  be  able  to  comprehend  fifty,  a 
second's  five  hundred,  and  a  third's  but  five-and-twen- 
ty.  The  first  may  subscribe  these  fifty  points  of 
doctrine,  but  who  can  confine  the  genius  of  the  sec- 
ond ?  Or  who  can  expand  the  capacity  of  the  last  ? 
In  minds  capable  of  different  operations,  no  number 
of  points  of  doctrine  can  possibly  be  fixed  on  as  a 
standard  for  all ;  for  fix  on  what  number  soever  you 
will,  there  will  always  be  too  many  for  the  capaci- 
ties of  some,  and  for  others  too  few.  If  this  be  the 
case  who  can  establish  an  uniformity  of  sentiment .? 
What  earthly  power  can  say,  "  we  will  not  endure  any 
varying  or  departing  in  the  least  degree  9" 

Moreover,  it  may  be  asked  whether  all  these  points 
of  doctrine  be  capable  of  an  equal  degree  of  evi- 
dence; and  if  not,  whether  it  be  possible  to  enforce 
an  uniform  degree  of  belief.  Take  for  example  two 
propositions.  "  The  Bishop  of  Rome  hath  no  juris- 
diction  in  this  realm  of  England." — "  Athanasius's 
creed — may  be  proved  by  most  certain  warrants  of 
holy  scripture". 

The  first  of  these  propositions  is  capable  of  de- 
monstration, but  the  last  is  very  doubtful  ;  and  if  the 
degree  of  assent  ought  to  be  exactly  proportional  to 
the  degree  of  evidence,  a  magistrate,  who  would  es- 
tablish uniformity,  must  either  give  falsehood  the  evi- 
dence of  truth,  or  oblige  men  to  believe  a  probable 
as  fully  as  a  certain  proposition.     But  if  neither  of 



these  can  be  done,  what  becomes  of  uniformity  ?  An 
uniform  assent  to  fifty  propositions,  some  of  which 
are  probable,  others  certain,  and  others  (pace  tantis 
talibusque  viris)  false  ! 

It  is  the  easiest  thing  in  the  world  to  retire,  sit 
down,  invent,  and  publish  a  system  on  any  subject. 
Imagination,  always  prolific,  contributes  largely  ;  and 
it  is  not  difficult  to  erect  an  ideal  world  with  Berke- 
ley ;  an  ideal  republic  with  Plato  ;  or  in  short  a  phi- 
losophical romance  of  any  kind.  All  sorts  of  men, 
poets,  philosophers,  orators,  divines,  some  of  each 
class  have  erred  on  this  head  ;  the  most  ingenious 
wandering  the  farthest.  But  when  these  romantic 
machines  are  applied  to  real  life,  to  the  tillage  of  a 
field,  the  government  of  a  state,  the  forming  of  a 
church,  they  appear  only  elaborate  trifles  ;  amusive, 
but  not  useful.  If  such  ingenious  inventors  are  great 
men,  there  is  another  class  greater  still,  a  class 
whose  motto  is  duce  natura  seqjjamur. 

After  all,  what  is  uniformity  good  for  .?  Is  it  es- 
sential to  salvation  .?  Is  it  essential  to  real  piety  in 
this  life  ?  Does  it  make  a  subject  more  loyal  to  his 
prince  ?  A  husband  more  faithful,  or  a  parent  more 
tender  ?  Cannot  a  man  be  honest  and  just  in  his  deal- 
ings without  knowing  any  thing  about  St  Athanasius? 
Nay,  has  not  this  act  produced  more  sophistry  and 
cruelty  than  any  other  act  of  parliament  from  the  re- 
formation to  this  day .?    Not  secular,   but  spiritual  se« 


verity  ;  not  the  sophistry  of  the  har,  but  the  sophistry 
of  the  church. 

Did  the  great  Supreme  govern  his  empire  by  an 
act  of  uniformity,  men  might  be  damned  for  believ- 
ing too  little,  seraphs  degraded  for  believing  too  much. 
The  creed  of  the  inhabitants  of  Saturn  might  be  es- 
tablished, and  theirs  that  dwelt  in  the  moon  only  tol- 
erated. In  such  a  case,  what  a  fine  field  of  contro- 
versial glory  would  open  to  the  divines  of  these  two 
provinces  of  the  kingdom  de  origine  mali.  Almighty 
Father,  can  a  blind  belief  please  thee  ?  Can  thy  crea- 
tures believe  what  they  cannot  perceive  the  evidence 
of?  Can  all  understand  the  evidence  of  the  same 
number  of  truths  ?  Formed  with  different  organs, 
educated  in  different  prejudices,  dost  thou  require 
the  same  services  ?  Art  thou  indeed  the  hard  master 
who  reapest  where  thou  hast  not  sowed  9  Far  from 
all  thy  subjects  be  such  a  thought ! 

Conclude  then,  that  if  God  be  a  rock,  and  his  work 
perfect,  if  variety  be  the  characteristic  of  all  his 
works,  an  attempt  to  establish  uniformity  is  revers- 
ing and  destroying  all  the  Creator's  glory.  To  at- 
tempt an  uniformity  of  colour,  sound,  taste,  smell, 
would  be  a  fine  undertaking ;  but  what,  pray,  will 
you  call  an  attempt  to  establish  an  uniformity   of 


You  will  say,  Christianity  is  not  the  religion  of  na- 
ture, but  the  religion  of  revelation  ;  what  therefore 
may  seem   absurd   to  philosophy,  may   be   explained 


by  Christianity.  Perhaps  the  Founder  of  our  holy  re- 
ligion may  have  established  uniformity.  If  he  has, 
uniformity  may  be  a  christian  though  not  a  philo- 
sophical idea.  Well,  this  shall  be  inquired  in  the 
next  letter. 




You  have  often  admired  that  Dedication  to  the 
Pope  which  is  prefixed  to  a  piece  of  Sir  Richard 
Steele's,  entitled  An  Account  of  the  State  of  the  Ro- 
man Catholic  Religion  throughout  the  World. — 
"  Your  Holiness,"  says  the  writer,  "  is  not  perhaps 
aware,  how  near  the  churches  of  us  protestants  have 
at  length  come  to  those  privileges  and  perfections, 
which  you  boast  of  as  peculiar  to  your  own. — The 
most  sagacious  persons  have  not  been  able  to  discov- 
er any  other  difference  between  us,  as  to  the  main 
principle  of  all  doctrine,  government,  worship,  and 
discipline,  but  this  one,  that  you  cannot  err  in  any 
thing  you  determine,  and  we  never  do.  That  is,  in 
other  words,  that  you  are  infallible,  and  we  always 
in  the  right.  We  cannot  but  esteem  the  advantage 
to  be  exceedingly  on  our  side,  in  this  case,  because 
Ave  have  all  the  benefits  of  infallibility,  without  the 
absurdity  of  pretending  to  it,  and  without  the  uneasy 


task  of  maintaining  a  point  so  shocking  to  the  under- 
standing of  mankind."*  This  is  not  a  libel ;  this  is 
a  satire  ;  the  worst  is,  this  satirical  stroke  is  true. 
The  church  of  Rome  refuses  the  Scriptures  to  the 
people  ;  some  protestant  churches  grant  the  sight  of 
the  book,  but  retain  the  meaning.  Can  you  see  any 
difference  ?  Search  or  not  search,  read  or  not  read, 
the  sense  is  fixed,  it  is  at  the  peril  of  your  prefer- 
ment to  vary. 

Whence  church  governors  pretend  to  derive  this 
right  does  not  signify.  It  can  neither  be  derived 
from  the  nature  of  Christianity,  the  doctrine  or  prac- 
tice of  Christ  or  his  Apostles,  the  condition  of  man 
in  a  state  of  nature,  his  condition  as  a  member  of 
society  subject  to  magistracy,  nor  indeed  in  England 
from  any  thing  but  the  act  of  supremacy;  an  act 
which  transferred  a  power  over  men's  consciences 
from  the  pope  to  the  king.  His  Majesty  Henry  the 
VIITth,  by  a  master  stroke  in  politics,  preferred  an 
indictment  against  the  whole  body  of  the  clergy  in 
Westminster  Hall,  and  obtained  judgment  upon  the 
statute  of  praemunire,  whereby  they  were  all  declared 
to  be  out  of  the  king's  protection,  and  to  have  for- 
feited all  their  goods  and  chattels  ;  and  then  pardoned 
them  on  two  conditions ;  first,  that  they  should  pay 
into  the  exchequer  £118,840.     Secondly,  that  they 

*  [The  curious  Dedication,  from  which  these  words  are  quoted, 
was  written  by  Hoadly.  See  the  whole  article  in  the  present 
Collection,  Vol.  i.  p.  255.    Ep.] 


should  yield  his  Majesty  the  title  of  sole  and  supreme 
head  of  the  church  of  England;  a  title  which  by 
subsequent  declarations  was  so  explained,  as  to  anni- 
hilate the  right  of  private  judgment,  and  yet  private 
judgment  gave  birth  to  this  very  act. 

Suppose  his  Majesty  Harry  the  VHIth,  exercis- 
ing the  authority  allowed  by  the  act  of  supremacy, 
and  among  other  things  forming  a  creed  for  his  sub- 
jects ;  suppose  him  a  man  of  shallow  capacity  ;  would 
not  his  creed  have  been  too  lean  and  poor  for  many 
of  his  subjects  ?  And  on  the  contrary,  suppose  him 
a  man  of  an  exalted  genius,  of  a  prodigious  stretch  of 
thought ;  would  not  his  creed  have  been  too  rich  and 
full  for  many  more  ?  But  the  impossibility  of  exer- 
cising such  a  power  was  discussed  in  the  last  letter  ; 
this  is  to  canvass  the  legality  of  it. 

No  mean  can  be  lawful  in  itself  which  destroys  the 
end  for  which  it  is  appointed.  Now  the  end  to  be 
obtained  is  the  establishment  of  Christianity.  But 
how  can  the  depriving  men  of  the  right  of  private 
judgment  be  a  lawful  mean  of  obtaining  that  end, 
seeing  Christianity  is  a  personal  obedience  to  the  laws 
of  Christ  arising  from  a  conviction  of  their  excellency, 
and  their  connexion  with  certain  facts  of  whose  cer- 
tainty evidence  is  given,  which  evidence  to  be  re- 
ceived must  be  examined  ?  Christianity  proposes 
truths  of  speculation  and  truths  of  practice  ;  if  men 
can  examine  and  ascertain  the  first  by  proxy,  why 
not  obey  the  last  in  the  same  manner  ?  But  who 
can  love  or  fear,  believe  or  hope,  by  substitution  ? 


If  to  deny  the  right  of  private  judgment  be  de- 
structive of  the  nature  of  Christianity  in  general,  it  is 
more  remarkably  so  of  the  Christianity  of  the  reform- 
ed churches.  The  right  of  private  judgment  is  the 
very  foundation  of  the  Reformation,  and  without  es- 
tablishing the  former  in  the  fullest  sense,  the  latter 
can  be  nothing  but  a  faction  in  the  state,  a  schism  in 
the  church.  The  language  of  the  reformers  must  be 
something  like  this  when  they  proposed  subscription. 
"Gentlemen,  the  right  of  private  judgment  allowed 
of  God,  and  supported  by  all  kinds  of  argument,  hath 
been  challenged  and  exercised  by  men  for  upwards 
of  five  thousand  five  hundred  years  ;  we  ourselves 
have  recovered  it  from  the  pope,  who  had  unlawfully 
usurped  this  right,  and  as  God,  sat  in  the  temple  of 
God.  In  virtue  of  this  right,  we  have  examined 
the  holy  Scriptures,  fixed  their  meaning,  and  engag- 
ed the  king  to  support  a  creed,  which  by  delegation 
we  have  composed  for  his  Majesty,  and  for  all  his 
subjects.  In  us  the  right  of  private  judgment  ceases, 
and  should  England  continue  five  thousand  five  hun- 
dred years  longer,  no  man  shall  exercise  this  right 
without  suffering  all  the  penalties  we  can  inflict.  In- 
deed all  Europe  is  but  just  emerging  from  barbarity, 
learning  is  but  in  its  infancy,  and  England  is  torn 
and  rent  with  civil  dissensions.  In  all  probability, 
peace  may  succeed  war,  learning  may  diffuse  itself, 
and  invigorate  to  maturity  ;  and  a  hundred  years 
honco  men  may  arise  infinitely  more  capable  than  we 


aie  ;  but  let  succeeding  ages  improve  as  they  will, 
all  men  shall  leave  the  minster  where  they  find  it." 
How  say  you,  Sir  ?  Cranmer  stained  his  archiepis- 
copal  hands  with  blood  ;  but  could  even  Cranmer 
have  opened  the  convocation  with  such  a  speech  as 
this  ?  Yet  speak  it  or  no,  it  is  all  fact. 

The  reformers  were  not  to  blame  for  exercising 
the  right  of  private  judgment  themselves;  their  fault 
was  a  denial  of  the  same  right  to  others.  They  had 
the  highest  authority  for  what  they  did,  deriving  it 
from  the  doctrine  and  example  of  Christ  and  his 

Take  one,  two,  or  more  of  our  Saviour's  doctrines, 
and  ask  what  magic  can  there  be  in  subscribing  them 
without  examination  ?  Himself  never  proposed  such 
a  thing,  but  on  the  contrary,  exhorted  his  hearers  to 
search  the  Scriptures  ;  a  strange  impertinence,  unless 
the  right  of  private  judgment  be  allowed  !  Nor  did 
he  only  exhort  the  people  to  judge  for  themselves, 
but  he  also  warned  his  disciples  not  to  usurp  that 
right.  Call  no  man  your  father  upon  the  earth,  net* 
ther  be  ye  called  masters.  Neither  impose  your 
opinions  upon  others,  nor  suffer  them  to  impose  theirs 
upon  you. 

Had  Jesus  Christ  considered  the  right  of  private 
judgment  in  an  unlawful  light,  he  would  first  have  in- 
structed Herod,  or  Caiaphas,  or  some  of  the  princi- 
pal rabbies,  and  by  them  he  would  have  converted 
the  nation.  But  instead  of  that,  he  condemns  th^ 



doctrines  of  the  church  governors,  addresses  his  ser- 
mons ad  populum,  gives  it  as  a  proof  of  his  mission 
that  the  gospel  was  preached  to  the  poor,  and  constant- 
ly protects  his  followers  in  the  exercise  of  the  right 
of  private  judgment.  When  the  disciples  plucked 
and  ate  the  ears  of  corn,  they  broke  two  canons  of 
the  established  church.  It  was  on  a  sabbath  day; 
and  probably  before  morning  service  was  over ;  and 
the  church  had  determined  the  illegality  of  what 
they  did.  Used  to  judge  for  themselves,  they  thought 
the  church  mistaken  in  this  case,  ventuied  to  think 
for  themselves,  and  acted  accordingly.  Did  not 
Jesus  Christ  protect  them  in  their  claim  ? 

The  Apostles,  worthy  followers  of  such  a  master, 
went  into  all  nations,  preaching  a  doctrine  which  no 
church  governors  upon  earth  believed.  Did  they 
deny  the  right  of  private  judgment  ?  If  they  had, 
their  expeditions  would  have  been  in  the  Quixotic 
style.  Did  St  Paul  write  to  Corinth?  I  speak  as 
to  wise  men  ;  judge  ye  what  I  say.  Did  he  write 
to  Rome  ?  Let  every  man  be  fully  persuaded  in 
his  own  mind.  Every  body  understood  this.  The 
populace  at  Berea,  men  and  women,  searched  the 
Scriptures  daily  whether  these  things  were  so%  The 
students  at  Athens  desired  to  know  what  the  new  doc- 
trine was,  of  which  the  Apostle  spake  ;  for  the  pur- 
pose of  search,  no  doubt.  The  magistrates,  as  Gallio, 
declared  themselves  no  judges  in  such  matters. 
And  hence  the  amazing  success  of  his  preaching ; 


for  what  himself  calls  preaching  ivith  demonstration 
of  the  spirit,  and  power,  St  Luke  calls  reasoning  in 
the  synagogue  every  sabbath  day.  Compare  Acts 
xviii.  4.  with  1  Cor.  ii.  4,  5.  Who  can  account  for 
all  this  without  the  right  of  private  judgment  ? 

Consider  the  condition  of  man  in  a  state  of  nature  ; 
and  you  will  readily  grant  either  that  a  right  of  de- 
termining for  himself  is  no  man's,  or  every  man's 
right.  Vindicate  the  right  to  one,  and  you  do  it  to 
two,  to  two  hundred,  to  two  thousand,  to  the  whole 
world  ;  for  all  in  a  state  of  nature  are  on  a  level. 
There  is  neither  Jew  nor  Greek,  bond  nor  free, 
prince  nor  subject ;  the  right  of  one  argued  from  his 
nature,  is  the  right  of  all.  Whether  men  forfeit  this 
right  in  a  state  of  society  is  another  question. 

A  christian  not  only  cannot,  but  if  he  could  he 
ought  not  to  dispose  of  this  right,  because  not  only- 
he  cannot  be  a  christian  without  its  exercise,  but  all 
the  purposes  of  civil  government  may  be  answered 
without  it.  The  power  of  the  magistrate  is  an  article 
of  importance  enough  to  demand  a  particular  discus- 
sion ;  let  the  remaining  space  of  this  letter  be  filled 
up  with  inquiring,  whether,  if  this  advantage  of  pri- 
vate judging  had  been  denied  to  other  classes  of 
men,  the  world  would  not  have  sustained  infinite 
damage  ? 

Choose  of  the  mechanical  arts,  or  of  the  sciences, 
which  you  please,  place  it  in  the  state  in  which  it 
was   seven  hundred,  five   hundred,  or  two   hundred 


years  ago ;  let  its  then  present  state  be  defined,  its 
ne  plus  ultra  determined  ;  let  all  future  search  be 
prohibited,  and  what  an  innumerable  multitude  of 
useful  discoveries  are  men  deprived  of? 

When  Columbus  first  imparted  his  designs  rela- 
tive to  the  discovery  of  America  to  Ferdinand,  king 
of  Spain,  his  Majesty  thought  proper  to  advise  with 
his  ecclesiastical  counsellors  about  it.  All  were 
against  the  project,  and  quoted  St  Austin,  who,  in 
his  book  de  eivitate  Dei,  had  declared  it  impossible 
to  pass  out  of  one  hemisphere  into  another ;  and  had 
denied  that  there  co  dd  be  any  Antipodes.  Seneca, 
Seneca  the  heathen,  had  declared  long  before,  that 
future  ages  would  discover  new  worlds,  and  that 
Thule  would  not  be  the  farthest  region  upon  earth. 
In  this  case  it  must  be  owned  that  St  Austin  was  an 
heretic,  and  Seneca  a  sound  believer.  The  king 
and  Columbus  ventured  to  dissent,  judged  for  them- 
selves, and  found  ample  reward  for  so  doing,  not- 
withstanding clerical  decisions.  Indeed,  St  Austin 
was  not  the  only  person  who  denied  the  possibility  of 
Antipodes  ;  the  church  denied  it,  that  is,  the  head, 
Pope  Zachary,  denied  it  for  all  the  members.  And 
this  is  the  order  that  he  sent  to  his  legate  Boniface, 
Archbishop  of  Mentz,  who  had  accused  Virgil,  bish- 
op of  Saltzburg,  of  holding  the  dangerous  error  of 
the  Antipodes.  "  If,"  says  the  head  of  the  church, 
"  he  should  be  convicted  of  maintaining  that  per- 
verse  doctrine,  which    he   hath   uttered   against  the 


Lord,  and  against  his  own  sou],  that  is,  that  there  is 
another  world,  other  men  under  the  earth,  another 
sun  and  another  moon,  call  a  consistory,  degrade 
him  from  the  honour  of  the  priesthood,  et  ab  ecclesid 
pelle."  A  fine  story  for  a  man  to  be  excommuni- 
cated for  ! 

Has  not  all  Europe  pitied  the  fate  of  Copernicus 
and  Galileo,  the  fathers  of  modern  astronomy  ?  The 
first  kept  his  work  near  forty  years  before  he  dared 
to  publish  it,  and  died  immediately  after  it  was  pre- 
sented to  him  ;  the  persecution  he  dreaded  being 
the  supposed  cause.  As  to  Galileo,  he  was  charged 
with  heresy,  first,  for  affirming  that  the  sun  was  in  the 
centre  ;  secondly,  that  the  earth  was  not  in  the 
centre,  but  had  a  diurnal  motion.  His  works  were 
burnt,  himself  imprisoned,  and  being  released  was 
enjoined  a  penance  of  repeating  once  a  week  for 
three  years  the  seven  penitential  psalms.  As  if  the 
penitential  psalms  said  any  thing  about  Galileo's 
crime  !  But  these  are  some  of  the  fruits  of  denying 
the  right  of  private  judgment.  The  pope,  the  sole 
judge,  was  pleased  to  think  that  these  discoveries  in 
geography  and  astronomy  clashed  with  certain  doc- 
trines established  in  the  church. 

What  a  condition  would  all  Christendom  have 
been  in  by  this  time,  had  not  this  extravagant  claim 
been  denied,  and  the  right  of  private  judgment 
established  in  arts  and  sciences  ?  All  the  received 
systems  of  music,  astronomy,  physic,  and  of  all  othey 


arts  and  sciences,  were  originally  private  opinions  j 
probably  they  would  have  been  so  still,  had  the 
inventors  been  prohibited  publishing,  or  the  public 
examining  and  receiving  them.  But  now,  mankind 
form  into  societies,  impart  their  own  discoveries, 
ofTer  rewards  to  other  inventors  or  improvers  of  arts 
and  sciences  ;  and  what  follows  ?  What  might  be 
expected  ;  the  perfection  of  science.  Thus  Cicero 
accounts  for  that  literary  pre-eminence  which  Greece 
had  over  Rome  ;  and  thus  in  all  nations  and  in  all 
ages  will  the  same  effects  follow  the  same  causes  ;  in 
England  as  in  Rome  the  maxim  is  true,  honos  alit 

Numerous  are  the  objections  made  to  this  doc- 
trine ;  there  are,  however,  but  two  that  are  worth 
answering.  The  first  is,  that  Christianity  is  perfect 
and  entire  in  the  holy  Scriptures,  that  herein  it  dif- 
fers from  human  arts  and  sciences,  that  therefore  the 
inquisitiveness  necessary  for  the  latter  would  be 
highly  injurious  to  the  former.  To  which  it  may  be 
justly  answered,  that  many  people  doubt  this,  as  the 
church  of  Rome,  whose  notion  is  too  fully  expressed 
by  Cardinal  Hosius,  who  said  that  the  Scriptures  were 
of  no  more  authority  than  iEsop's  fables,  were  it  not 
for  the  authority  of  the  church  ;  as  the  people  called 
Quakers,  who  consider  the  holy  Scriptures  as  a 
secondary  rule  subordinate  to  the  spirit ;  and  many 
others  wholly  deny  their  divinity.  Now  ought  not 
all  these  people  to  be  all ■ivved  the  liberty  of  exam- 
ining the  proofs  of  the   divinity  and  perfection  of  the 


Bible  ?  For  private  judgment  which  is  their  malady 
is  also  their  only  medicine.  But  let  the  perfection 
of  the  holy  canon  be  granted.  It  will  amount  to  no 
more  than  granting  the  perfection  of  the  works  of 
nature.  In  both,  invisible  things,  even  the  eternal 
power  and  Godhead  are  to  be  seen  and  understood 
by  the  things  that  are  made*  The  word  of  revela- 
tion, like  the  works  of  nature,  presents  objects  to  view, 
but  objects  to  be  examined  and  understood  ;  and 
how  can  this  be  without  the  right  of  private  judg- 
ment ? 

You  say  the  Scriptures  give  a  perfect  account  of 
the  nature  of  God,  the  nature  of  man,  the  vanity  of 
the  life  that  now  is,  the  certainty  of  the  life  that  is  to 
come  ;  but  how  is  another  man  to  know  this,  unless 
you  allow  him  to  examine  and  determine  for  him- 
self? It  may  be  a  perfect  rule,  it  may  be  a  subordi- 
nate rule,  it  may  be  a  false  rule,  it  may  be  no  rule  at 
all,  for  any  thing  he  knows  who  must  not  examine, 
or  if  he  examines  must  not  determine  ;  for  to  retain 
the  meaning  is  to  retain  the  book  ;  and  there  is  no 
real  difference  between  denying  the  examination  and 
denying  the  conclusion.  You  know  the  story  of 
father  Fulgentio,  preaching  at  Venice  on  Pilate's 
question,  What  is  truth  ?  He  told  his  hearers  that 
at  last  after  many  searches  he  had  found  it  out,  and 
held  out  a  New  Testament,  and  said,  that  there  it 
was  in  his  hand  ;  but  then  he  put  it  in  his  pocket, 
and  coldly  said  ;  But  the  book  is  prohibited.  Now 
what  great  difference  would  there   have  been,  if  he 


had  said,  You  may  read  the  book,  but  its  true  mean- 
ing is  prohibited  ?  Yet  this  is  what  all  the  Arminian 
clergy  in  England  must  say,  if  they  speak  consistently 
with  themselves  ;  for  in  the  opinion  of  all  impartial 
judges  the  established  religion  is  Calvinism. 

The  other  objection  is,  that  this  will  open  a  door 
to  all  sorts  of  heresies,  and  the  truth  will  be  oppressed 
and  disappear.  Indeed  !  And  is  truth  such  a  tim- 
orous, cowardly  thing  ?  What  idle  fears  are  these  ! 
Should  an  honest  man  be  taxed  with  dissoluteness 
and  impiety,  and  should  any  propose  to  him  a  fair 
trial  before  impartial  judges,  would  he  be  frightened 
at  it,  think  you  ?  Christianity  is  not  to  be  loaded  with 
calumnies,  she  is  so  already,  her  only  hope  is  a  fair 

But  to  abridge  the  matter.  Do  not  facts  contradict 
this  ?  Is  not  the  church  of  Rome  full  of  heresy  ? 
Have  not  the  Gospel  and  the  right  of  private  judgment 
gone  hand  in  hand  in  the  reformation  ?  Are  the  power 
and  promise  of  God  nothing  ?  Has  he  not  engaged 
to  support  his  church  ?  Does  not  every  thing  pro- 
posed to  men  relate  to  some  operation  of  their 
minds  ?  Does  not  a  rational  fancy  protect  the  truth 
of  imagery  in  poetry,  and  an  honest  conscience  reli- 
gion ?  Strange  errors  have  been  proposed  which  the 
penetration  of  church  governors  could  neither  foresee, 
nor  provide  against ;  and  it  has  happened  to  them  as 
to  monstrous  images  in  poems  ;  they  are  dead,  and 
buried,  and  exploded,  and  the  public  taste  not  injured 





[The  article  here  selected  makes  a  part  only  of 
an  essay  entitled,  The  General  Doctrine  of  Tolera- 
tion applied  to  the  particular  Case  of  Free  Com- 
munion. It  has  a  direct  reference  to  that  portion  of 
the  Baptist  denomination,  who  hold  to  what  is  called 
close  communion,  or  the  doctrine,  that  no  persons 
are  qualified  to  be  members  of  a  christian  church, 
who  have  not  been  baptized  by  immersion.  The 
author  pleads  for  a  mixed  communion,  by  which 
persons  baptized  in  infancy  are  received  into  Baptist 
churches,  provided  such  persons  are  satisfied  with 
the  validity  of  their  own  baptism,  as  having  in  their 
opinion  been  performed  according  to  the  spirit  and 
intention  of  the  Gospel. 

Robinson  argues,  that  this  kind  of  fellowship  is 
allowable,  because  the  New  Testament  nowhere 
enjoins  any  particular  mode  of  baptism,  as  an  abso- 
lutely essential  qualification  for  being  a  member  of 
the  true  church  of  Christ.  He  goes  farther,  and 


proves,  that  there  is  no  positive  command  requiring 
baptism  in  any  form,  as  a  prerequisite  for  church 
communion.  This  is  left  to  the  conscience  and 
judgment  of  every  christian.  Any  one  sincerely 
believing  the  Gospel,  and  thinking  it  his  duty  to 
approach  the  Lord's  table,  cannot  be  rightfully  de- 
nied this  privilege,  although  he  may  not  be  con- 
vinced that  the  law  of  Christ  demands  his  submission 
to  the  ordinance  of  baptism.  The  author  considers 
both  of  the  ordinances  as  of  divine  institution,  and 
as  designed  for  every  christian  ;  but  at  the  same  time 
he  does  not  suppose  there  is  any  immediate  connex- 
ion between  them,  nor  that  any  christian  minister  or 
church  has  a  right  to  refuse  one  to  a  brother,  who 
may  desire  it,  because  he  cannot  see  his  way  clear 
to  participate  of  both.  There  is  as  much  impropri- 
ety in  withholding  the  Lord's  supper  till  baptism  be 
performed,  as  there  would  be  in  refusing  baptism  till 
the  person  had  become  a  communicant.  Neither 
the  Saviour  nor  the  Apostles  have  declared,  that 
either  of  these  shall  precede  the  other,  nor  that  one 
shall  be  denied,  if  the  other  have  not  been  complied 

Such  are  the  views  of  the  author  as  expressed  at 
large  in  this  essay,  where  they  are  unfolded  with  his 
usual  freedom  and  perspicuity,  and  with  more  than 
his  usual  method,  closeness  of  thought,  and  sound 
argument.  This  may  be  ranked  among  his  best 
specimens  of  composition,  and  has  almost  none  of  his 
peculiar  defects.  He  has  succeeded  in  checking  the 
busy  meddlings  of  his  fancy,  which,  on  other  occa- 
sions, is  too  apt  to  lead  him  astray,  and  prove  a 
treacherous  guide  to  his  taste  and  judgment.  He 
thought  the  subject  of  high  importance,  as  it  truly  is, 
in  its  bearing  on  the  principles  and  practice  of  chris- 
tian  fellowship.     If   his   views  are   correct,   and   he 



brings  scripture  and  reason  to  prove  them  so,  many 
of  the  formidable  barriers,  which  have  been  raised 
to  keep  christians  asunder,  to  frighten  the  timid  and 
harden  the  obstinate,  to  scatter  the  brands  of  dis- 
cord and  heat  the  fire  of  persecution,  may  be  pulled 
down,  and  the  ground  left  open  and  free  where  all 
the  sincere  disciples  of  Jesus  may  meet  in  love  and 
peace,  in  fellowship  and  kind  feeling. 

One  head  of  the  essay  relating  to  the  history  of  the 
controversy  concerning  free  communion,  among  the 
Baptists,  and  also  a  few  closing  reflections,  are  omit- 
ted, as  not  immediately  connected  with  the  subject 
of  baptism,  to  which  the  parts  of  the  essay  here  given 
are  confined.] 

The  most  diligent  and  upright  disciples  of  Jesus 
Christ  have  always  entertained,  and  do  yet  entertain 
various  sentiments  concerning  articles  of  faith  and 
modes  of  divine  worship,  and  there  are  but  two  ways 
of  acting  among  christians  in  this  case. 

The  first,  which  the  far  greater  part  profess  to 
pursue,  is  that  of  obtaining,  some  way  or  other,  unity 
of  faith,  and  uniformity  of  practice.  In  the  papal 
corporation,  and  in  some  reformed  communities, 
riches  and  power  contend  with  weakness  and  want 
to  silence  scruples,  and  to  force  a  real  or  professed 
uniformity.  In  some  of  our  nonconformist  churches, 
learning,  argument,  and  beneficence  are  employed  to 
produce  the  same  effect.  At  length,  however, 
unquestionable  facts  prove,  that,  how  upright  soever 
the  attempt  may  be,  the  end  is  unattainable.  The 
mind  of  man,    uncontrolled   in  its  operations,  and  for 


ever  diversifying  its  modes  of  thinking,  refuses  to 
submit  to  restraint,  and  it  is  the  virtue  of  such  a 
mind  to  avow  its  refusal. 

If  uniformity  cannot  be  obtained,  say  the  other, 
and  the  smaller  part  of  christians,  there  remains  only 
one  thing  for  us  to  do  ;  we  must  so  constitute  our 
churches  as  to  allow  variety  of  sentiment  and  prac- 
tice, and  by  so  doing  acknowledge  the  force  of  nature 
for  the  voice  of  God.  Let  us  put,  say  they,  toler- 
ation in  the  place  of  uniformity  ;  this  can  never  be 
produced  ;  but  that  lies  within  the  reach  of  every 

The  English  nonconformists  have,  of  all  mankind, 
best  understood,  and  most  practised  christian  liberty; 
but  there  have  arisen  in  many  of  their  churches,  as 
may  naturally  be  supposed  of  men  zealous  for  their 
religious  principles,  doubts  and  debates  concerning 
the  extent  of  that  toleration,  which  christian  liberty 
implies,  but  which,  however,  ought  not  to  run  into 
licentiousness,  as  it  would  if  it  went  so  far  as  to 
hazard  the  purity  of  gospel  worship  and  order. 

Under  this  consideration  comes  the  well  known 
controversy  among  our  Baptist  congregations, 
whether  churches  consisting  of  members  all  baptized 
by  immersion  on  a  profession  of  faith  and  repentance, 
ought  to  admit  into  their  fellowship  such  persons  as 
profess  faith  and  repentance,  and  desire  communion 
with  them,  but  refuse  to  be  baptized  by  immersion, 
because  they  account   they   have   been   rightly  bap- 


tized  by   sprinkling  in   their  infancy.     To  this   ques- 
tion,  and  to  this  only,  we  shall  confine  our  attention. 
This  whole    debate,    I    should    suppose,   may  be 
divided  into  a  case  of  fact  and  a  case  of  right. 

Case  of  fact.  On  the  one  hand,  it  is  a  matter 
of  fact,  that  many  sincere  disciples  of  Christ  declare, 
that,  having  renounced  all  authority  except  that  of 
the  holy  Scriptures  to  decide  in  all  matters  of  faith 
and  practice,  and  having  searched  the  Scriptures 
with  all  the  diligence  and  rectitude,  of  which  they 
are  capable,  they  think  infant  baptism  of  divine  ap- 
pointment, and  rightly  performed  by  sprinkling  water 
on  the  face. 

It  is  a  matter  of  fact,  that  many  baptist  churches 
do  conscientiously  admit  such  persons  into  their 

It  is  also  a  fact,  that  these  churches  affirm,  and  they 
are  best  capable  of  giving  evidence  in  this  case,  that 
no  inconvenience  has  arisen  to  them  from  the  mixture 
of  their  communion.  The  writer  of  this  has  been  a 
member  of  such  a  church  more  than  twenty  years, 
but  has  never  heard  of  the  least  disadvantage  arising 
to  the  community  from  it,  and  he  has  received  a  like 
attestation  from  the  ministers  of  several  other  mixed 

Further,  it  is  a  fact,  that  these  members  perform 
all  the  duties   of  church  fellowship,  glorify   God   in 
their  lives  and  conversations,  and  support  the  charac- 


ter  of  christians  as  honourably  as  the  baptist  brethren 

Moreover,  it  is  a  matter  of  fact,  that  some  church- 
es have  been  mixed  from  before  the  time  of  the  civil 
war  in  the  reign  of  Charles  I.  when  the  baptists  first 
made  their  public  appearance  in  England. 

In  fine,  it  is  an  undeniable  fact,  that,  during  the 
time  of  the  great  papal  apostaey,  while  churches  were 
congregated  in  private  for  fear  of  prelatical  persecu- 
tion, believers,  who  held  infant  baptism,  and  believ- 
ers, who  disowned  it,  were  united  in  the  same  com- 
munity, as  ancient  manuscripts  and  authentic  records 
abundantly  prove. 

On  the  other  hand,  it  is  certain,  that,  from  the  first 
public  appearance  of  baptist  churches  in  England, 
many  have  refused,  and  to  this  day  continue  to  refuse 
to  admit  into  their  fellowship  all  manner  of  persons, 
however  qualified  in  other  respects,  who  have  not 
been  baptized  by  immersion  on  their  own  profession 
of  faith  and  repentance. 

It  is  equally  true,  that  all  these  baptists  allow  the 
piety  and  virtue  of  unbaptized  believers,  account 
them  members  of  the  mystical  body  of  Christ,  and 
some  of  them  possessors  of  knowledge  and  piety  far 
superior  to  their  own,  and  they  hold  themselves  bound 
to  discharge  every  kind  office  to  them,  except  this 
one  of  admitting  them  to  church  fellowship. 

It  is  a  fact,  that  these  churches  do  not  believe  bap- 
tism a  saving  ordinance,  nor  do  they  think  it  a  test  of 


true  religion,  nor  do  they  bold  that  unbaptized  be- 
lievers ought  not  to  be  tolerated  in  a  state,  nor  do 
they  deny  any  intelligent  being  the  right  of  private 
judgment ;  they  only  refuse  to  tolerate  infant  baptism 
in  their  own  churches. 

It  is  also  a  clear  fact,  that  these  baptists  affirm, 
their  refusal  does  not  proceed  from  wilful  ignorance, 
obstinacy,  spirit  of  party,  bigotry,  or  any  other  illibe- 
ral disposition  ;  but  from  a  fear  of  offending  God  by 
acting  without  a  sufficient  warrant  from  his  written 
word,  the  rule  of  all  religious  conduct.  Their  testi- 
mony ought  to  be  admitted,  because  they  are  the 
best  judges  of  their  own  motives,  because  the  gene- 
ral conduct  of  their  lives  confirms  their  testimony, 
and  because  (of  some  of  them  it  must  be  allowed) 
they  extend  candour  and  compliments  and  polite  pro- 
fessions of  liberality  of  sentiment  far,  very  far  indeed, 
beyond  what  some  of  their  brethren,  who  hold  free 
communion,  pretend  to  do. 

Moreover,  it  is  a  fact  unquestionable,  that,  as  some 
independent  churches  practising  free  communion 
have  admitted  so  many  baptists  members,  that  the 
latter  have  in  time  formed  a  great  majority,  who  have 
chosen  a  baptist  minister,  through  whose  influence 
the  church  has  become  a  baptist  church  ;  so,  on  the 
contrary,  some  baptist  churches  holding  free  com- 
munion have  admitted  so  many  unbaptized  members, 
that  the  churches  have  in  time  chosen  ministers,  who 
held  infant  baptism,  and  lost  the  ordinance  of  baptism 
bv  immersion. 


Lastly,  it  is  matter  of  fact,  that  the  primitive 
churches,  those  in  Greece,  that  at  Rome,  and  all 
others,  were  originally  constituted  baptist  churches, 
and  that  they  lost  the  ordinance  of  baptism,  along 
with  the  doctrines  of  the  Gospel,  and  the  very  nature 
and  essence  of  christian  churches,  not  by  practising 
a  wise  toleration  towards  men  of  allowed  piety,  but 
by  setting  up  certain  external  qualifications  of  church 
members,  which  in  time  became  tests  of  orthodoxy, 
to  which  wicked  men  could  and  did  conform,  under 
pretence  of  authority  from  Christ  to  establish  unifor- 

All  these  are  facts,  but  none  of  these  constitute 
christian  law,  and,  if  we  would  ascertain  what  is 
right,  we  must  distinguish  what  is  from  what  ought 
to  be. 

Case  of  right.  The  question  before  us  is, 
right  to  church  fellowship,  and  our  inquiry  must  ne- 
cessarily be,  What  makes  it  just  and  right  for  church- 
es to  admit  of  mixed  communion  ?  The  proper  an- 
swer to  this  inquiry,  on  the  allowed  principles  of  all 
disputants,  is,  the  revealed  will  of  Jesus 
Christ,  the  original  projector  of  church  fellowship, 
and  the  sole  legislator  in  all  the  assemblies  of  his 

In  strict  adherence  to  this  truly  protestant  ground 
of  action,  and  in  order  to  try  out  the  question  as  fair- 
ly and  clearly  as  we  can,  we  will  ascertain  the  judge 
of  the  controversy,  and  the  law  of  the  case ;   and   in 


order  to  this  we  will  turn  the  subject  on  both  sides, 
and  first  show  negatively  what  does  not  make  the  law 
of  the  case,  and  then  positively  what  does. 

First,  then,  nothing  can  be  determined  concern- 
ing the  right  in  question  from  the  universal  consent, 
real  or  pretended,  of  men  out  of  our  own  community. 

We  divide  these  into  four  classes,  and,  although 
we  have  all  due  regard  for  them,  yet  we  reject  each 
apart,  and  all  together,  as  judges  pronouncing  law  in 
this  case. 

1.  The  fathers  are  incompetent,  for,  if  any  thing 
in  their  writings  looks  like  the  case  before  us,  it  is 
the  case  of  heretical  baptism  ;  but  the  amount  of  all 
our  inquiries  on  this  article  would  be,  that  one  says 
yea,  and  another  says  nay,  and  both  refer  us  to  Jesus 
Christ,  and  so  we  leave  off  where  we  began. 

2.  Roman  Catholics,  both  in  council  and  out  of 
it,  are  incompetent ;  for  their  proper  work  is  not  in- 
vestigation of  truth,  much  less  determining  protestant 
controversies ;  but  submission  to  infallible  papal  au- 

3.  Polemical  dicines,  and  pious  ones  too,  in  estab' 
lished  reformed  churches,  utter  no  law  here.  The 
case  in  hand  never  came,  never  could  come  serious- 
ly before  them,  and,  if  it  had,  having  previously  re- 
signed the  right  of  judging  for  themselves  by  subscrib- 
ing a  religious  test,  they  could  not  prudently,  or  even 
uprightly,  give  an  opinion  in  direct  contradiction  to  it. 
AH  baptists  judge,  that  these  divines  are  mistaken  in 


every  part  of  baptism,  in  the  nature,  the  subject,  the 
mode,  and  the  end  of  it,  and  this  is  one  reason  of 
their  dissent  from  them  ;  they  cannot  therefore  con- 
sistently allow  their  opinions  on  baptism  and  church 
government  the  force  of  law. 

4.  Learned  critics,  foreign  or  domestic,  have  no 
occasion  to  interfere  in  this  case,  nor  can  they  be  of- 
fended at  our  affirming,  that  the  christian  church 
stands  in  no  need  of  their  assistance  in  this  point 
now  before  them,  for  this  plain  reason,  it  is  not  a 
learned  question.  It  would  be  a  great  misfortune  to 
a  company  of  plain,  homely  christians  in  church  fel- 
lowship, if  any  case  pertaining  to  life  and  godliness 
must  cost  fifteen  hundred  pounds  worth  of  Latin  and 
Greek  to  make  it  evident  and  clear. 

Should  all  these  four  classes  of  writers  agree  to 
make  baptism  necessary  to  salvation,  necessary  to  a 
civil  office,  necessary  to  receiving  the  Lord's  supper, 
necessary  to  the  honour  of  being  enrolled  in  the 
parish  register  while  we  live,  and  necessary  to  that 
of  putrifying  among  our  neighbours  after  we  are  dead, 
and  should  any  baptist  so  far  forget  himself  as  to  urge 
this  universal  consent  as  argument  why  we  should  not 
admit  the  persons  in  question  to  the  Lord's  table;  I 
will  venture  to  say,  it  would  be  an  unfair  appeal  to 
the  sheepishncss  of  some,  and  the  modesty  of  others, 
in  a  case  of  conscience,  where  only  scripture  is  law. 
and  Christ  alone  is  judge. 


Secondly,  nothing  can  be  argued  for  or  against  this 
right  from  the  great  names  in  our  own  churches  em- 
ployed in  this  controversy.  Gale  and  Foster,  Bunyan 
and  Kiftjn,  along  with  all  the  moderns,  before  whom 
the  case  actually  came,  and  who  had  personal  interest 
in  deciding  it,  are  respectable  as  counsel  pleading  on 
different  sides  of  the  question,  and  we  calmly  attend 
to  what  they  say  ;  but  none  of  their  opinions  con- 
stitute the  law  of  the  case. 

Thirdly,  nothing  can  be  determined  for  it  from 
general  notions  of  benevolence  and  usefulness,  nor 
against  it  from  zealous  and  uptight  intentions  of  pre- 
serving purity  of  doctrine  and  order  ;  for  in  a  case 
that  comes  under  written  revealed  law,  as  the  consti- 
tution of  christian  churches  evidently  does,  general 
dispositions  must  be  regulated  by  particular  direc- 

Fourthly,  neither  can  one  side  infer  the  right  in 
question  from  any  particular  case  mentioned  in  the 
New  Testament,  nor  can  the  other  support  their  plea 
against  it  by  the  silence  of  the  New  Testament  ;  for 
the  truth  is,  infant  baptism  was  not  then  known,  and 
consequently  the  case  of  admitting  to  fellowship  per- 
sons baptized  in  infancy  does  not  occur  there. 

Fifthly,  no  accidental  circumstances  can  deter- 
mine this  matter.  There  have  fallen  into  this  con- 
troversy, as  into  all  others,  a  collection  of  what  I  call 
accidental    circumstances,    and    which    have    been 


argued  upon,  and  have   led  off  the   attention  of  the 
inquirer  from  the  case  in  hand.     For  example  ; 

1.  Cases  have  been  supposed  and  urged,  as  that 
of  admitting  Jesuits,  and  Quakers,  and  others  ;  but 
these  suppositions  prove  nothing.  Lawyers  say 
truly,  there  is  nothing  so  hard  to  find,  as  a  case  in 
point.  These  cases  are  not  in  point,  for  they  never 
did  happen,  they  never  can  happen,  and  were  they 
to  happen  they  would  not  be  this  case,  and  they 
must  be  investigated  on  other  principles,  and  rejected 
for  other  reasons.  Neither  supposed  cases  urged  on 
one  side,  nor  real  cases  allowed  on  the  other,  con- 
stitute the  law  of  this  case. 

2.  The  motives,  tempers,  and  views  of  the  dis- 
putants decide  nothing.  A  sour,  surly  man  may 
growl  and  grumble  truth,  a  well  bred  man  may 
warble  melodious  nonsense,  a  sincere  disputant  may 
be  a  very  silly  fellow,  and  a  man  right  in  his  princi- 
ples may  be  wrong  in  his  motives  of  defending  them. 

3.  Mistakes  and  self-contradictions  in  writers 
yield  no  argument  against  the  general  truth,  which 
they  are  defending.  If  upright  men  sometimes  in 
the  heat  of  controversy  forget  themselves,  we  should 
do  worse  than  they,  were  we  to  magnify  their  frailty 
into  a  crime,  and  their  crime  into  a  rule  of  action. 
On  the  other  hand,  an  argument  may  be  uniform, 
and  free  from  self-contradiction,  and  yet  it  may  not 
hit  the  case. 


4.  Frightful  consequences,  affixed  by  one  writer 
to  the  arguments  of  another,  ought  not  to  be  urged 
as  decisive  reasoning   constituting  the  law  of  a  case. 

In  short,  the  right  or  wrong  of  this  case  is  deter- 
minable only  by  the  written  revealed  will  of  God,  a 
test  of  truth,  which  all  the  parties  will  allow. 

Having  thus  cleared  the  court  of  a  bustling,  noisy 
crowd,  that  do  no  good  because  they  give  no  evi- 
dence, and  do  a  deal  of  harm  because  they  perplex 
the  question  by  throwing  in  a  quantity  of  foreign 
matter,  let  us  proceed  to  investigate  what  is  the  law 
of  Christ  in  this  case. 

We  affirm,  then,  that  it  is  just,  and  right,  and 
agreeable  to  the  revealed  will  of  Christ,  that  Bap- 
tist churches  should  admit  into  their  fellowship  such 
persons  as  desire  admission  on  profession  of  faith 
and  repentance,  although  they  refuse  to  be  baptized 
by  immersion,  because  they  sincerely  believe  they 
have  been  rightly  baptized  by  sprinkling  in  their 

By  way  of  explanation,  I  beg  leave  to  distinguish 
what  our  divines  call  the  esse,  or  the  being  of  a 
church,  from  the  melius  esse,  or  best  being  of  one  ; 
for,  although  I  affirm  such  a  mixt  church  to  be  a 
rightly  constituted  church,  yet  I  do  not  say  its  con- 
stitution is  so  perfect  as  that  of  the  primitive  churches. 
A  church  that  tolerates  is  a  good  church ;  but  a 
church  that  has  no  errors  to  tolerate  is  a  better. 
We  do  not,  therefore,  blame  those  churches,  which 


were  never  required  to  admit  unbaptized  believers, 
for  maintaining  strict  communion ;  we  only  say, 
where  the  requisition  is  made,  a  compliance  with  it 
is  just  and  right. 

In  support  of  this  sentiment,  we  beg  leave  to  offer 
two  sorts  of  arguments,  the  first  taken  from  those 
general  principles  of  analogy,  on  which,  the  Scrip- 
tures declare,  the  christian  church  is  founded  ;  and 
the  second  from  the  express  laws  of  Jesus  Christ 
recorded  in  scripture  for  the  regulation  of  our  con- 

God  is  an  intelligent  being.  An  intelligent  being 
exercises  his  intelligence  when  he  constructs  any 
exterior  work,  and  the  work  will  resemble  the  intel- 
ligence of  its  maker.  A  wise  and  beneficent  being 
will  naturally  and  necessarily  form  a  work  full  of 
beneficence  and  wisdom.  Should  a  perfect  being 
create  a  world,  it  would  be  a  world  expressive  of  his 
invisible  perfections ;  should  he  form  a  church  in  this 
world,  it  would  be  a  church  constituted  on  similar 
principles  ;  and,  if  skill  and  compassion  were  excel- 
lencies of  his  nature,  compassion  and  skill  might  be 
expected  in  the  construction  of  his  church.  There 
would  be  an  analogy,  or  resemblance,  between  the 
ties  of  nature  and  the  social  bonds  of  grace. 

We  find,  on  reading  the  New  Testament,  that 
God  is  the  author  of  Christianity,  the  creator  of  the 
christian  church,  that  he  hath  displayed  the  eminence 
of  his  perfections   in   the  construction  of  it,   and  that 


he  hath  inviolably  preserved  an  analogy  between  the 
natural  and  preternatural  worlds.  This  is  the  true 
ground  of  all  the  parables,  in  which  Christ  taught  his 
heavenly  doctrine,  and  of  all  the  discourses,  by  which 
he  displayed  the  conduct  of  God  to  men  under 
resemblances  of  a  father  and  his  sons,  a  shepherd 
and  his  flock,  a  husbandman  and  his  lands,  and  so  on. 
For  the  same  reasons,  we  are  expressly  told  of  the 
aboundings,  or  abundance,  of  the  wisdom  and  pru- 
dence, the  power  and  pity,  the  forbearance  and 
patience,  love  and  compassion  of  God  toward  his 
church.  He  exercises  the  same  attributes  in  the 
church  as  in  the  world,  with  this  only  difference,  the 
display  is  brightest  in  the  first.  This  is  what  we  call 
analogy,  and  from  this  general  source  we  derive 
many  particular  arguments  from  the  nature  and  fit- 
ness of  things  in  defence  of  our  proposition. 

First ;  It  is  just,  and  right,  and  agreeable  to  the 
nature  and  fitness  of  things,  that  we  should  diminish 
evils  and  difficulties,  which  we  are  not  able  wholly  to 
remove.  There  are  in  nature  a  thousand  obstacles  in 
the  way  of  every  just  pursuit.  Agriculture,  com- 
merce, navigation,  literature,  government,  civil  and 
domestic,  are  all  attended  with  difficulties,  some  of 
which  threaten  the  subversion  of  the  whole.  It 
should  seem  better,  at  first  sight,  that  no  obstacles 
should  exist  to  discourage  such  just  and  laudable 
pursuits  ;  but  they  do  exist,  and  we  cannot  help  their 
existence,  yea,  perhaps  their  existence  may  be  neces- 


sary  to  give  being  and  exercise  to  some  of  the  finest 
abilities  and  virtues  of  mankind. 

Our  skill,  and  our  duty  too,  consist  neither  in 
wholly  removing  these  evils,  for  that  is  not  in  our 
power,  nor  in  remaining  plaintive  and  inactive,  doing 
nothing  where  much  may  be  done,  though  not  all  we 
wish  ;  but  in  diminishing  these  ills,  and  in  making  the 
most  and  best  of  such  materials  as  providence  hath 
actually  put  into  our  hands.  Every  projector  of  a 
great  design  exercises  his  penetration  in  foreseeing 
what  obstacles  may  obstruct  the  execution  of  it,  and 
much  of  his  skill  lies  in  providing  against  them. 

We  apply  this  to  the  case  in  hand.  Christianity 
is  highly  fitted,  and  admirably  adapted  to  the  actual 
state  and  condition  of  men  and  things  in  this  world. 
It  was  excellently  said  by  Jesus  Christ,  The  sabbath 
was  made  for  man,  and  not  man  for  the  sabbath,  im- 
plying that  positive  religion  was  so  contrived  as  to 
yield  in  certain  cases  to  natural  and  necessary  con- 
tingencies. The  man,  who  uses  all  diligence  to  ob- 
tain evidence  of  believers' baptism,  and  cannot  obtain 
it,  and  yet  desires  admission  to  the  Lord's  table, 
throws  a  difficulty  in  the  way  of  the  church,  a  diffi- 
culty too,  which  they  cannot  remove  ;  but  the  ques- 
tion is,  can  they  not  diminish  it  ?  It  hath  pleased 
God  to  give  this  man  faith  in  Christ  and  moral  obedi- 
ence ;  but  it  does  not  please  him  to  give  him  light, 
into  adult  baptism.  He  does  not  belong  to  the  world, 
he  does  not  desire  to    trouble  the   church,  he   only 



wishes  for  a  peaceable  admission  to  fellowship ;  we 
cannot  give  him  knowledge,  we  cannot  baptize  him 
without  it;  but  we  can  admit  him  to  the  Lord's  table, 
and  so  build  God's  house  with  the  best  materials  we 
have.  It  is  a  case  of  insurmountable  difficulty  ;  it 
cannot  be  wholly  removed  ;  but  it  may  be  diminished. 
This  argument  is  taken  from  that  analogy  which  there 
evidently  is  between  the  economy  of  nature  and  that 
of  Christianity  ;  and,  if  it  be  a  less  evil  for  an  unbap- 
tized  believer  to  be  incorporated  in  the  church  than 
to  lie  exposed  in  the  world,  the  reasoning  is  valid. 

Secondly ;  It  is  fit,  and  right,  and  agreeable  to 
the  nature  of  things,  that  there  should  be  no  disqual- 
ification where  there  is  no  crime.  On  this  principle 
we  argue  against  a  sacramental  test  in  the  episcopal 
church.  Christian  churches  are  free  states,  and  full 
fellowship  is  the  new  birthright  of  every  regenerate 
man.  The  candidate  for  fellowship,  who  has  exam- 
ined believers'  baptism  by  immersion,  and  cannot 
obtain  evidence  of  the  truth  of  it,  is  indeed  in  a  state 
in  which  his  knowledge  is  imperfect ;  but  his  imper- 
fection is  innocent,  because  he  hath  exercised  all  the 
ability  and  virtue  he  has,  and  his  ignorance  is  invol- 
untary, yea,  perhaps  he  may  have  exercised  ten  times 
more  industry  and  application,  though  without  suc- 
cess, than  many  others,  who  have  obtained  evidence. 
To  deny  church  fellowship  to  persons  of  genuine 
virtue,  and  of,  it  may  be,  superior  virtue  too,  is  to 
affix  a  disgrace  and  inflict  a  punishment  both  without 


an  offence,  and  in  violation  of  a  right.  This  is  a  case 
of  involuntary  error,  and  there  is,  there  can  be  no 
moral  turpitude  in  it.  Where  there  is  allowed  virtue 
in  the  general  course  of  a  man's  actions,  and  no  moral 
evil  in  one  particular  imperfection,  it  is  not  imagina- 
ble that  any  punishment  should  be  inflicted,  or  any 
benefit  of  society  denied.  Now  as  we  all  agree,  that 
Christ  hath  constituted  his  church  on  principles  of 
equity,  it  should  seem,  this  argument  is  valid  and  of 

Thirdly  ;  It  is  just,  and  right,  and  agreeable  to  the 
nature  of  things,  that  all  men  should  be  placed  in  that 
condition,  in  which  they  can  do  most  good.  By  this 
rule  we  determine  what  is  usually  denominated  a  call 
in  providence,  and  an  all-sufficient  rule  it  is.  Now, 
by  excluding  the  persons  in  question  from  church  fel- 
lowship, we  deprive  the  church  of  many  wise  and 
worthy  members,  who  might  become  extremely  use- 
ful, and  we  deny  them  the  liberty  of  exercising  such 
abilities  as  God  gave  them  for  the  public  edification. 
If  Christ  constituted  his  church  on  a  principle  of  pro- 
moting the  greatest  social  good,  it  should  seem,  this 
argument  also  ought  to  have  its  weight. 

Fourthly  ;  It  is  just  and  right  in  virtuous  commu- 
nities, that  a  visible  difference  shoidd  be  put  between 
the  righteous  and  the  wicked.  If  hatred  of  sin  and 
love  of  holiness  were  principles  of  constructing  the 
christian  church,  as  they  certainly  were,  this  argu- 
ment too  is  good.     The  candidate   in  question  is  not 


rejected  on  account  of  any  thing  in  common  with  the 
rest  of  exempts  ;  he  is  neither  an  infidel,  nor  an  im- 
moral man,  yet  he  is  as  really  excluded  as  they  are. 
This  is  a  confounding  of  characters  essentially  dif- 
ferent, which  should  seem  unwarrantable  in  a  society 
professedly  incorporated  for  the  purpose  of  separat- 
ing and  distinguishing  them.  Shall  he  that  siveareth, 
and  he  that  fear eth  an  oath,  be  held  at  equal  distance 
from  the  Lord's  table,  and  all  the  other  benefits  of 
church  fellowship  ? 

Fifthly ;  It  would  argue  great  unfitness  in  any 
scheme  of  religion  for  this  world,  if  it  made  no  pro- 
vision for  human  imperfections.  If  a  plan  of  religion 
provided  for  the  wilful  perpetration  of  vice,  it  would 
be  a  scheme  fit  for  infernal  spirits.  If  it  provided 
only  for  perfect  knowledge  and  virtue,  it  would  be  a. 
plan  fit  for  only  angels  to  realize  ;  but  if,  while  it 
provided  for  eminent  attainments  of  knowledge  and 
goodness,  it  provided  also  for  imperfections,  that  is, 
for  small  and  inferior  degrees  of  science  and  moral 
excellence  ;  if  it  provided  for  increase  of  knowledge 
and  virtue,  though  accompanied  with  much  ignorance 
and  weakness,  then  would  it  commend  itself  for  a  divine 
system  fitted  by  perfect  wisdom  and  goodness  for  frail, 
imperfect  men.  The  candidates,  for  whom  we  plead, 
are  allowed  to  possess  that  general  excellence,  a 
supreme  love  to  truth  and  virtue,  from  which  all 
knowledge  and  all  good  actions  proceed  ;  but  they 
have  not  yet  attained  those  peculiar  exercises  of  it. 


which  produce  some  particular  parts  of  obedience ; 
however,  it  seems  fit  and  right,  that  they  should  be 
permitted  to  perform  all  they  do  know,  and  patiently 
borne  with  till  they  are  able  to  make  further  progress. 
If  Jesus  Christ  constituted  his  church  on  principles  of 
patience  and  forbearance,  condescension  and  long- 
suffering,  it  should  seem,  this  argument  also  ought  to 
have  some  authority  over  us. 

From  arguments  of  this  sort,  and  we  omit  many 
which  might  be  adduced,  there  arises  a  high  proba- 
bility, that  it  is  just  and  right  for  christian  churches 
to  admit  of  free  communion. 

Were  these  reasonings  on  the  nature  of  things 
alone,  and  were  they  unconnected  with  revelation, 
and  unsupported  by  it,  they  would  come  under  the 
description  of  general  dispositions  not  regulated  by 
particular  directions,  and  consequently  they  ought 
not  to  be  urged  in  this  controversy  as  decisive  in 
point  of  right  or  law ;  but  when  we  examine  the 
Scriptures,  and  find,  that  Christianity  is  actually  con- 
stituted on  these  principles,  that  these  are  adopted  as 
grounds  of  the  divine  conduct  to  us  and  rules  of  our 
actions  to  one  another,  we  have  a  right  to  conclude, 
that  these  arguments  are  fair,  valid,   and  conclusive. 

We  have  not  hesitated  to  affirm,  that  God  was  the 
original  projector  of  those  associated  bodies  of  men 
for  divine  worship,  which  we  call  christian  churches. 
We  have  made  no  scruple  of  affirming  that  the  orig- 
inal projector  formed  these  churches  on  principles  of 


wisdom,  equity,  compassion,  love  of  holiness,  and  so 
on.  We  have  not  quoted  passages  of  scripture  to 
prove  this ;  for  the  point  is  beyond  contradiction,  and 
the  quotations  would  be  endless.  If  these  should  be 
accounted  only  probable  arguments,  we  trust  the  next 
will  produce  demonstration. 

Our  second  class  of  arguments  we  take  from 
express  laws  of  church  fellowship,  contained 
iu  the  written  revealed  will  of  our  excellent  legis- 

First ;  We  argue  from  his  law  of  exclusion. 
There  are  in  the  New  Testament  many  lists  of  per- 
sons, who  may  not  be  admitted  into  the  christian 
church  in  this  world,  and  who  will  be  denied  an 
entrance  into  the  kingdom  of  heaven.  Some  of  these 
lists  are  general,  others  descend  to  particulars  ;  but 
there  is  no  mention  of  the  persons  now  before  us  in 
any  of  them.  Had  the  law  of  exclusion  been  made 
by  a  legislator  who  could  not  pry  into  futurity,  it 
might  be  imagined  he  did  not  foresee  the  case,  he 
did  not  know  that  such  persons  would  ever  appear  ; 
but  there  is  no  room  to  urge  this  ;  for  our  lawgiver 
was  a  prophet,  and  a  tender  prophet,  who  foresaw 
all  future  periods  and  persons,  and  forewarned  his 
church  of  every  thing  that  would  endanger  the  con- 
stitution of  it. 

The  natural  tendency  of  every  good  man  is  to 
associate  witli  other  good  men,  and  to  go  with  them 
into  the  enjoyment  of  every  immunity,  that  belongs  to 


their  society  ;  and  his  apparent  right  to  enjoy  all  the 
comforts,  as  well  as  to  suffer  all  the  crosses  of  his 
condition  is  so  highly  probable,  that  nothing  less  than 
a  clear,  positive,  express  law  of  exclusion  seems 
necessary  to  empower  any  church  to  refuse  his  claim. 
If  there  be  no  such  law,  and  none  such  there  is,  we 
cannot  help  saying  to  the  candidate  before  us, —  Come 
in,  thou  blessed  of  the  Lord;  wherefore  standest  thou 
without  9 

Secondly  ;  We  argue  from  his  law  of  toleration. 
The  particular  case  of  the  persons  in  question,  we 
allow,  is  not  mentioned  in  the  New  Testament ;  but 
a  general  law  including  this,  and  many  more  such 
cases,  is  published,  and  answers  the  end  better  than 
the  insertion  of  any  particular  case  could  have  done. 
This  law  is,  that  all  christians  should  enjoy  unmo- 
lested in  the  christian  church  the  right  of  pri- 
vate judgment.  In  a  multitude  of  passages  in  the 
New  Testament,  the  disciples  of  Christ  are  exhorted 
to  judge  for  themselves  in  all  matters  of  religion  and 
conscience,  and  this  right  of  self-determination  is 
vindicated  not  only  against  magistrates,  philosophers, 
and  rabbies,  but  against  fellow  members,  as  in  the 
xivth  of  romans  ;  and  even  against  inspired  Apostles, 
as  in  the  8th  and  10th  verses  of  the  xxiiid  of  Mat- 
thew. By  this  law  we  are  bound  to  allow  a  universal 
toleration  in  all  matters,  that  do  not  destroy  the 
essence  of  gospel  worship. 


Before  we  proceed  it  will  be  necessary  to  explain 
our  meaning,  and  an  answer  to  three  plain  questions 
will  sufficiently  do  so.  First,  What  do  we  plead 
for  ?  We  answer,  A  free  toleration  of  the  right  of 
private  judgment.  There  is  in  our  churches,  strictly 
speaking,  no  such  thing  as  public  faith  ;  our  standard 
of  faith  is  the  holy  Scripture,  and  whatever  we  pub- 
lish beside  are  the  private  sentiments  of  different  men, 
and  different  communities ;  and  it  is  questionable 
whether  any  two  churches  so  exactly  agree  as  bond 
fide  to  constitute  an  uniformity.  Now  we  plead  for 
the  allowance  of  this  right  to  unbaptized  believers. 
What  one  of  our  churches  allows  to  another  of  our 
churches,  that,  we  suppose,  each  church  ought  to 
allow  to  all  its  own  members,  and  to  all  good  men. 
Secondly,  Where  do  we  plead  for  the  free  exercise 
of  this  right  to  be  tolerated  ?  We  answer,  not  in  the 
state,  that  our  civil  governors  allow,  but  in  the  church. 
We  do  not  only  affirm,  that  unbaptized  believers  have 
a  natural  right  to  freedom  in  Britain,  so  that  they 
may  congregate,  and  form  churches  of  their  own  faith 
and  order ;  but  we  affirm,  that  they  have  a  scriptural 
right  to  their  own  faith  and  order  in  our  churches. 
It  will  be  objected,  this  would  destroy  our  own  faith 
and  order.  In  answer  to  this,  we  propose  a  third 
question, — How  far  is  this  toleration  to  extend,  and 
where  shall  we  draw  the  line  ?  We  answer,  in  gen- 
eral, toleration  ought  to   extend   as  far  as  is  consis- 


tent  with  purity  of  faith  and  order  ;  and  of  this  each 
church  ought  to  judge  for  itself. 

If  we  descend  to  particulars,  we  must  observe, 
that  the  objects  of  toleration  are  two,  errors  of  faith, 
and  irregularities  of  practice.  In  regard  to  faith,  we 
must  distinguish  between  the  facts  recorded  in  scrip- 
ture, such  as  the  birth,  life,  miracles,  death,  resurrec- 
tion, ascension,  second  corning,  judgment,  and  uni- 
versal dominion  of  Christ,  from  reasonings  upon  these 
facts  ;  they  are  the  latter  that  are  the  proper  objects 
of  toleration.  He  who  denies  the  facts  is  an  infidel, 
he  does  not  believe  the  record  God  has  given  of  his 
Son,  and  consequently  he  is  not  a  disciple  of  Christ, 
and  so  can  have  no  claim  to  sit  at  his  table.  A  man, 
who  does  believe  the  facts,  but  who  reasons  obliquely 
upon  them,  is  a  believer,  and  he  ought  to  be  tolerated 
though  he  is  an  inconclusive  reasoner.  The  other 
object  of  toleration  is  irregularity  of  practice.  Chris- 
tian obedience  is  submission  to  two  sorts  of  precepts, 
the  one  moral,  the  other  positive.  The  object  of 
toleration  in  moral  obedience  is  that  sort  of  improper 
action,  which  proceeds  not  from  malice,  but  from 
infirmity.  The  object  of  toleration  in  positive  obe- 
dience is  that  sort  of  irregularity,  which  proceeds 
from  innocent  mental  error.  Now  this  kind  of 
toleration,  while  it  provides  for  the  peace  and  pros- 
perity of  the  church,  and  for  the  ease  of  tender  con- 
sciences, neither  destroys  the  essence  of  Christianity 
nor  the  purity  of  gospel  worship. 


In  effect,  we  do  tolerate  in  all  our  churches  each 
of  these  imperfections. 

1.  In  regard  to  faith.  A  church  believing  the 
mediation  of  Jesus  Christ,  which  is  a  fact,  admits  a 
believer  of  this  fact  to  fellowship,  although  he  thinks 
it  was  necessary  in  order  to  this  mediation  that  the 
human  soul  of  Christ  should  pre-exist  his  incarnation. 
In  such  a  case  the  church  distinguishes  between  the 
fact,  that  Christ  is  a  mediator,  which  the  member 
believes,  and  his  false  reasoning  upon  the  fact,  that 
it  was  necessary  the  human  soul  of  Christ  should  be 
first  created,  and  that  it  should  exist  in  heaven  before 
his  incarnation,  in  order  to  mediate  between  God  and 
man  in  behalf  of  the  Old  Testament  saints.  The  same 
may  be  said  of  many  other  cases.  We  repeat  it 
again,  the  clear  facts  recorded  in  scripture  are  not 
objects  of  toleration,  and  a  denier  of  them  is  an  inn- 
del  ;  but  errors  in  reasoning  concerning  these  facts, 
such  as  the  time  and  mode  of  their  existence,  and  so 
on,  are  objects  of  toleration,  and  of  a  toleration  every 
way  safe  to  the  facts  themselves. 

2.  In  regard  to  the  toleration  of  moral  irregulari- 
ties, it  is  certain  we  are  obliged  to  make,  and  do 
actually  make  the  distinction  above  mentioned.  We 
exclude  members  for  such  immoral  actions  as  pro- 
ceed from  malice,  and  hatred  of  virtue  ;  but  we 
never  think  of  expelling  any  for  such  immoral  actions 
as  proceed  from  infirmity.  For  example.  Thou 
shalt  not  bear  false  ivitness   against  thy  neighbour, 


is  a  moral  law,  founded  in  the  nature  and  fitness  of 
things ;  and  should  any  member  of  our  churches, 
with  malicious  motives,  and  on  purpose  to  injure 
another,  violate  this  law,  we  should  expel  him  as  abater 
of  morality,  an  enemy  to  the  rights  of  all  mankind, 
whom  he  attacked  in  the  one  injured  person  ;  but  if 
another,  without  any  apparent  malice,  and  merely  to 
gratify  a  silly  infirmity,  a  love  of  tattling  and  chatter- 
ing, take  up  a  false  report  rashly,  and  tell  it  care- 
lessly to  the  injury  of  his  brother,  we  should  not 
expel  this  man.  We  should  pity  him,  and  pray  for 
him,  and  exhort  him  to  exercise  more  caution  for  the 
future  ;  and,  though  we  knew  he  had  not  such  an 
absolute  government  of  his  tongue  as  the  law  required, 
yet  we  should  tolerate  him,  and  such  a  toleration 
would  not  in  the  least  endanger  the  law. 

3.  In  respect  to  irregularities  in  obedience  to  pos- 
itive precepts,  we  all  exercise  a  toleration  of  these  in 
an  ample  manner,  except  in  the  one  article  before 
us,  to  which  some  of  us  object.  Our  churches  have 
never  yet  agreed  on  the  number  of  positive  institutes. 
All  hold  two,  Baptism  and  the  Lord's  supper ;  some 
add  a  third,  the  Sunday  sabbath ;  others  several 
more,  as  worshipping  God  by  singing,  anointing  the 
sick  with  oil,  abstaining  from  things  strangled  and 
from  blood,  and  so  on.  We  tolerate  irregularities  in 
all  these  cases,  and  we  have  instances  of  pastors, 
who  observe  the  Jewish  sabbath,  exercising  the  pas- 
toral office  with  the  highest  honour  both  to  the  church 


and  themselves,  in  congregations  that  profane  the 
Jewish  sabbath,  and  hold  the  Sunday  sabbath  to  be  a 
positive  divine  institute.  Now  as  all  positive  insti- 
tutes proceed  from  the  same  legislator,  and  ought  all 
to  be  treated  with  equal  reverence,  and  as  we  tole- 
rate irregularities  in  some  of  them  without  any  danger 
to  the  general  law  of  obedience  to  positive  religion, 
what  imaginable  good  reason  can  be  produced  for 
making  an  exception  in  the  case  of  unbaptized 
believers  ? 

This  kind  of  toleration  is  professedly  treated  of  in 
the  xivth  chapter  of  Romans,  and  the  inspired  Apostle 
defends  it  on  the  principles  which  we  have  laid  down. 
There  is,  he  affirms,  no  moral  turpitude  in  mental 
errors,  and  the  toleration  of  them  is  perfectly  con- 
sistent with  the  safety  of  the  church,  the  purity  of  the 
faith,  and  the  order  of  divine  worship. 

The  believer  who  was  baptized  in  his  infancy, 
claims  a  right  to  church  fellowship  ;  the  church 
judges  he  has  not  been  baptized,  but  he  judges  he 
has  been  baptized  in  his  infancy  by  sprinkling  accord- 
ing to  Christ's  institution.  Now  this  is  his  own  case  ; 
it  is  a  case  of  innocent  irregularity  in  obeying  a  pos- 
itive institute,  and  he  ought  to  be  allowed  to  judge 
for  himself.  Here  the  fort  of  those  who  refuse 
admission  to  such  members,  falls  to  the  ground. 
They  reason  thus.  All  churches  require  persons  to 
be  baptized  before  they  admit  them  to  the  Lord's 
supper  ;    now  we  deny  that  infant   sprinkling  is  bap- 


tism  ;  we  therefore  require  persons,  who  have  been 
sprinkled  in  infancy,  to  be  baptized  by  immersion. 
When  people  reason  thus  for  themselves  they  reason 
rightly  ;  but  when  they  reason  thus  for  another  per- 
son they  claim  a  right  of  judging  for  him,  and  conse- 
quently deny  him  that  liberty  of  self-judging,  which  they 
themselves  exercise  under  a  law,  which  the  common 
legislator  ordained  alike  for  both.  We  do  not  then 
plead  for  the  admission  of  such  a  person  because  we 
think  he  hath  been  baptized,  for  in  our  opinion  he 
hath  not ;  but  because  he  judges  he  has  been  bap- 
tized ;  and  we  have  no  authority  to  deprive  him  of 
the  right  of  private  judgment,  but  on  the  contrary  we 
are  expressly  commanded  to  allow  him  the  liberty  of 
determining  for  himself. 

If  any  reply,  we  allow  his  right  of  private  judgment, 
and  he  may  join  a  church  of  his  own  sentiments  ;  we 
answer,  that  does  not  alter  the  case  ;  you  are  requir- 
ed to  allow  the  exercise  of  private  judgment  in  your 
own  community,  not  out  of  it,  where  your  allowance 
and  disallowance  operate  nothing. 

Agreeably  to  this  principle,  when  I  have  had  the 
honour  to  assist  in  forming  a  christian  church  intend- 
ing to  hold  mixed  communion,  I  have  first  embodied 
the  baptists,  and  they  have  afterwards  admitted 
believers,  who  were  satisfied  with  their  infant  baptism, 
on  the  footing  of  toleration.  The  whole  christian 
church,  in  my  opinion,  was  thus  planted  in  this  like- 
ness of  Christ's  death,  and  at  the  same  time  the  laws 


of  christian  liberty  and  toleration  were  delivered  to 
them  to  be  made  use  of  as  the  exigencies  of  the 
times  should  require. 

We  will  conclude  this  head  with  two  remarks. 
1.  When  an  unbaptized  believer  appears  before  the 
brethren  at  a  church  meeting,  and,  professing  faith 
and  repentance,  requires  admission  into  church  fel- 
lowship, the  true  question  before  the  church  is  not 
whether  he  have  been  baptized,  but  whether  he  may 
judge  for  himself.  2.  No  instance  can  be  produced 
of  any  Apostle  presuming  to  judge  for  any  primitive 
christian,  and  making  his  opinion  the  ground  of  that 
christian's  conduct.  On  the  contrary,  instances  may 
be  produced  of  an  inspired  Apostle's  declaring  himself 
of  one  opinion  on  positive  institutes,  and  pleading  for 
the  liberty  of  christians  to  embrace  another.  I  know, 
and  am  persuaded  by  the  Lord  Jesus,  that  there  is 
nothing  unclean  of  itself;  but  to  him  that  esteemeth 
any  thing  unclean,  to  him  it  is  unclean.  Let  every 
man  be  persuaded  in  his  own  mind. 

Thirdly ;  Let  us  attend  to  the  law  of  baptism 
itself  in  its  original  institution.  While  we  pay  all  due 
reverence  to  a  divine  institute,  we  ought  not  to  make 
more  of  it  than  the  instructer  made  ;  neither  ought 
we  to  remove  it  from  that  place  in  which  his  wisdom 
set  it.  Baptism  has  been  called  an  initiating  ordi- 
nance, that  is,  an  ordinance  by  which  we  enter  into 
something.  Let  us  remember  this  is  not  a  scriptural 
definition  of  baptism,  nor  is  it  admissible  except  in  a 


qualified  sense.  It  certainly  was  not  an  ordinance  by 
which  the  first  baptists  entered  into  church  fellowship  ; 
for  into  what  church  did  the  disciples  of  John  enter 
by  baptism  ?  Was  Jesus  Christ  admitted  a  member 
of  a  christian  church  by  baptism  ?  Or  into  what  church 
did  the  Eunuch  enter,  when  Philip  alone  baptized  him 
in  the  desert.  Believers  indeed  entered  on  a  public 
profession  of  Christianity  in  general  by  baptism,  and  that 
was  all.  If  some  were  added  to  the  church  immedi- 
ately after  baptism,  it  may  not  be  amiss  to  recollect, 
that  it  was  immediately  after  a  sermon  too,  and  if  this 
connexion  of  events  afforded  any  argument  for  the 
nature  and  place  of  baptism,  it  might  as  well  be 
applied  to  the  nature  and  place  of  a  sermon,  and 
preaching  might  be  denominated  an  initiating  ordi- 
nance. The  truth  is,  preaching  produced  conversion, 
conversion  baptism,  baptism  acquaintance  and  con- 
versation with  church  members,  and  conversation 
church  fellowship.  When  we  receive  and  use  an 
ordinance  for  all  the  ends  for  which  it  was  instituted, 
we  have  done  all  that  is  required  of  us  ;  but  when 
we  employ  it  to  other  ends,  the  least  that  can  be  said 
of  us  is,  we  are  wise  above  what  is  written.  Zeal 
may  animate  us  ;  but  even  zeal,  when  it  does  not 
follow  knowledge,  will  misguide  us. 

General  and  vague  as  this  description  of  the  law 
of  baptism  is,  it  is  sufficient  for  all  the  ends,  for 
which  we  produce  it ;  however,  it  may  serve  to  elu- 
cidate our  meaning,  if  we  be  more  explicit. 


We  affirm,  then,  that  baptism  is  not  a  church  ordi- 
nance, that  it  is  not  naturally,  necessarily,  and  actu- 
ally connected  with  church  fellowship,  and  conse- 
quently that  the  doctrine  of  initiating  into  the  chris- 
tian church  by  baptism  is  a  confused  association  of 
ideas,  derived  from  masters  whose  disciples  it  is  no 
honour  to  be. 

Baptism,  we  allow,  is  a  positive  institute  of  the 
New  Testament,  and  ought  to  be  practised  till  the 
second  coming  of  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ ;  but,  that 
it  is  not  a  New  Testament  church  ordinance  is  clear, 
for  it  was  administered  several  years  before  the  Jew- 
ish economy  was  dissolved,  and  consequently  before 
there  were  any  such  congregated  societies  in  the 
world  as  we  call  christian  churches.  When  John  the 
Baptist  came  first  preaching  and  baptizing,  Jesus, 
who  afterward  founded  the  christian  church,  lived  a 
private  life  at  Nazareth  ;  he  did  not  enter  on  his  min- 
istry till  the  death  of  John,  and  he  did  not  dissolve 
the  Jewish  ecclesiastical  state  till  his  own  death. 
People  were  baptized  all  this  time  on  a  general  pro- 
fession of  faith  in  the  Messiah,  and  repentance  tow- 
ards God.  This  notion  of  baptism  was  preserved 
after  the  resurrection  of  Christ,  and  after  christian 
churches  had  been  congregated  by  his  order,  as 
appears  by  the  baptism  of  the  Eunuch,  who  indeed 
made  a  profession  of  faith,  but  was  not  associated  to 
any  particular  christian  church. 


Much  lias  been  said,  in  pretended  proof  of  the 
place  of  baptism,  concerning  the  order  of  Christ's 
words  in  that  commission  to  baptize,  which  he  gave 
his  Apostles  ;  it  is  recorded  in  the  last  chapter  of 
Matthew;  but,  if  this  trite  method  of  reasoning 
amounted  to  argument,  we  might  form  one  thus. 
Christ  instituted  the  Lord's  supper  before  his  death. 
Christ  made  baptism  a  positive  christian  institute 
after  his  resurrection.  Therefore  the  Lord's  sup- 
per ought  to  be  received  before  we  are  baptized. 

In  a  word,  the  law  of  christian  baptism  is,  that 
believers  in  Christ  should  publicly  avow  their  faith 
in  him,  and  their  resolution  to  obey  him,  by  being 
baptized  ;  and  the  proper  time  for  this  is  after  believ- 
ing and  before  admission  to  fellowship  ;  however,  as 
there  was  no  original  and  actual,  so  there  is  no  nat- 
ural and  necessary  connexion  between  baptism  and 
fellowship.  Baptism  was  an  initiation  into  the  pro- 
fession of  Christianity  at  large,  not  into  the  practice 
of  it  in  any  particular  church. 

This  is  the  law,  and,  we  think,  the  whole  law  of 
baptism,  and  we  plead  this  law  in  favour  of  the  right 
of  unbaptized  believers  to  the  Lord's  supper,  for  two 
plain  and  obvious  reasons.  1.  A  command  to  per- 
form one  duty  is  not  a  prohibition  of  another  duty. 
Keep  the  sabbath  day  holy  is  one  command,  and  hon- 
our thy  father  is  another  ;  but  as  there  is  no  neces- 
sary connexion  between  the  two,  a  breach  of  the 
first  does  not   release  from   an  obligation  to  the  last. 


Baptism  and  the  Lord's  supper  are  both  commanded; 
but  a  law  to  perform  one  does  not  prohibit  the  observ- 
ance of  the  other  ;  the  unbaptized  believer's  way  to 
the  Lord's  table  is  therefore  clear.  2.  It  is  remark- 
able, that  this  positive  law  of  baptism  is  not  enforced 
by  any  penalties,  and  herein  it  differs  from  all  other 
positive  institutes.  By  what  right  then  do  we  affix 
to  the  breach  of  it  such  a  severe  penalty  as  exclusion 
from  church  fellowship  ?  After  all,  our  candidates 
neither  deny  the  right  of  Christ  to  give  laws,  nor 
that  he  hath  given  the  law  of  baptism,  nor  that  they 
are  bound  to  obey  it ;  their  error  lies  in  an  innocent 
mistake  concerning  the  proper  subject,  and  the  right 
mode  of  administering  it.  There  is  no  penalty  affixed 
to  this  mistake,  and  one  law  is  not  a  prohibition,  or 
repeal  of  another  law. 

Fourthly ;  We  argue  for  the  right  of  our  candi- 
dates from  the  law  of  gifts.  When  Jesus  Christ 
ascended  to  heaven,  he  gave  gifts  unto  men  for  the 
work  of  the  ministry,  and  for  the  edifying  of  the  gen- 
eral body  of  christians.  To  one  he  gave  a  discern- 
ing of  spirits,  to  another  divers  kinds  of  tongues,  one 
had  a  gift  of  psalmody,  another  a  doctrine,  and 
another  an  interpretation ;  and  when  the  whole  church 
came  together  into  one  place,  all  these  gifts  were 
directed  to  the  public  edification. 

It  is  the  opinion  of  some,  that  all  these  spiritual 
gifts  have  been  continued  in  the  church  in  some 
degree  ever  since ;   and  it  is  the   thankful   acknowl- 


edgment  of  all,  that  a  part  of  them  have  been  per- 
petuated to  this  day.  Whatever  general  gifts  men 
receive  from  God,  they  receive  under  a  natural  obli- 
gation of  employing  and  improving  them,  of  improv- 
ing them  for  themselves,  and  employing  them  for  the 
benefit  of  others  ;  and  whatever  special  ecclesiastical 
abilities  good  men  receive  from  Christ,  the  Lord  of 
the  church,  they  receive  both  under  a  general  obli- 
gation to  use  them,  and  under  a  special  scriptural 
law  to  employ  them  in  the  church  for  the  edification 
of  the  body. 

Some  unbaptized  believers  have  received  out  of 
the  fulness  of  Christ  spiritual  abilities ;  one  hath  a 
gift  of  psalmody  ;  another  a  comprehensive  knowl- 
edge of  christian  theology,  and  an  aptitude  to  teach 
it  to  others ;  a  third  excels  in  spiritual  discernment, 
and  so  on  ;  and  we  have  four  remarks  to  make  on 
their  case. 

1.  The  want  of  baptism  does  not  incapacitate  these 
men.  The  vigour  of  mental  operations  is  not  im- 
paired by  this  defect.  Neither  fancy,  judgment, 
memory,  penetration,  freedom  of  speech,  courage, 
nor  any  other  excellence  that  goes  into  the  compo- 
sition of  a  spiritual  gift,  is  annihilated  or  debilitated 
on  that  account ;  so  that  they  are  sufficient  to  the 
work  of  edifying  the  body  of  Christ. 

2.  There  is  no  express  law  in  the  New  Testa- 
ment, no  prohibition  against  the  use  of  these  abilities 
on  account  of  the   imperfection  of  baptism,  no  pre- 


cedent  of  exclusion,  no  trace  or  distant  hint  of  any 
such  thing. 

3.  There  is  an  express  law  given  to  persons  who 
have  spiritual  gifts,  to  make  use  of  them.  They  are 
not  only  given  to  every  man  to  profit  withal,  but  a 
positive  command  is  issued,  that  they  should  employ 
them  in  the  church  for  general  advantage.  Call 
all  these  abilities  of  unbaptized  believers  one  talent, 
if  you  please,  and  suppose  the  baptist  brother  to  have 
two  ;  it  will  yet  follow,  that  the  one  talent  should  not 
be  hid  in  a  napkin,  but  put  to  use,  that,  when  the 
Lord  comes,  he  may  receive  his  own  with  improve- 

4.  Christian  societies  cannot  regularly  employ 
these  gifts  among  themselves,  unless  they  admit  the 
persons,  who  have  them,  to  fellowship.  An  unbap- 
tized believer,  having  spiritual  abilities,  would  not 
proceed  regularly,  if  he  were  to  begin  by  demand- 
ing of  the  church  a  right  to  exercise  his  gifts  among 
them  for  the  public  benefit,  according  to  Christ's 
command.  He  should  first  demand  fellowship.  In 
such  a  case  a  people  would  reason  justly  if  they 
allowed,  that  such  a  man  had  a  right  to  exercise  his 
abilities  in  the  church  ;  that  the  church  was  obliged 
by  law  to  allow  and  direct  the  exercise  ;  that  they 
had  no  jurisdiction  except  over  their  own  members, 
and  consequently  that  right  to  exercise  spiritual  gifts 
included  in  itself  right  to  church  fellowship.  The 
law,  that  obliges  the  candidate  to  exercise  his  gifts  in 


the  church,  and  the  law,  that  commands  the  church 
to  employ  him  and  to  direct  the  exercise,  both  include 
in  themselves  an  obligation  to  fellowship ;  they  oblige 
a  candidate  to  join  a  church,  and  they  oblige  a  church 
to  admit  him. 

All  our  churches  allow  and  employ  neighbouring 
independent  ministers  to  preach  to  them,  and  daily 
express  a  high  and  just  regard  for  their  useful 
labours  ;  yet,  in  their  opinion,  these  men  are  unbap- 
tized  ;  now  we  only  ask  such  a  toleration  for  mem- 
bers of  their  own  congregations,  as  they  daily  exer- 
cise toward  ministers  of  other  congregations  ;  and  we 
urge  this  for  the  former,  because  by  their  conduct  to 
the  latter  they  prove,  that  they  do  not  hold  the  want 
of  baptism  to  be  either  a  natural  or  a  legal  inca- 

Fifthly ;  Let  us  advert  to  the  law  of  constitution. 

When  the  compassion  of  Christ  induced  him  to 
descend  into  Judea  to  recover  a  profligate  world  to 
order,  he  brought  along  with  him  three  sorts  of  ex- 
cellencies ;  a  body  of  perfect  wisdom,  an  asortment 
of  holy  affections,  and  a  set  of  upright  actions.  Some 
degree  of  each  of  these  he  imparted  to  his  disciples, 
and  they  to  others,  as  assisted  by  his  divine  influ- 
ence. All  believers,  therefore,  have  a  threefold 
union  to  Christ ;  an  union  of  sentiment,  for  they 
believe  what  he  believed  and  taught ;  an  union  of 
affection,  for  they  love  and  hate  what  he  loved  and 
hated  ;  what  gave  him  pleasure  gives  them  pleasure, 



tind  what  grieved  him  gives  them  pain  ;  and  an  union 
of  practice,  for  they  form  their  lives  on  his  example. 
Hence  arises  an  union  to  one  another,  as  well  as  an 
union  of  all  to  Christ  the  head. 

It  is  not  imaginable,  that  any  of  the  disciples  of 
Christ  possess  these  excellencies  in  such  perfection 
as  he  possessed  them  ;  nor  is  it  to  be  supposed,  that 
ail  poss?ss  them  in  such  eminent  degrees  as  some  do; 
however,  there  is  a  general  excellence,  a  supreme 
love  to  truth  and  virtue,  religious  principle,  if  you 
will,  in  all  believers,  on  which  the  christian  church  is 

All  the  laws  of  constituting  New  Testament 
churches  are  formed  on  this  just  notion  of  sacred 
social  union,  and  our  argument  turns  on  the  suffi- 
ciency of  this  general  excellence,  which  is  common  to 
all  believers,  for  all  the  ends  and  purposes  of  church 

The  kingdom  of  Christ  is  an  empire  of  truth  and 
virtue,  and  it  is  not  necessary  to  a  residence  in  this 
kingdom  that  men  should  be  perfect  in  either.  A 
supreme  love  to  truth  as  far  as  we  know  it,  and  a 
conscientious  attachment  to  virtue  as  far  as  we  have 
discovered  it,  are  high  qualifications,  and  all-suffi- 
cient for  the  duties  and  enjoyments  of  church  com- 
munion. Now  these  are  always  found  in  the  persons, 
for  whose  right  we  are  pleading.  They  are  partakers 
of  God's  promise  in  Christ  by  the  Gospel ;  they  have 
heard  the  word  of  truth,  the  Gospel  of  their  salva- 


tion  ;  the  eyes  of  their  understanding  are  enlight- 
ened ;  they  know  the  hope  of  his  calling,  and  the 
riches  of  the  glory  of  his  inheritance  in  the  saints ; 
they  have  been  quickened  together  with  Christ ;  and 
are  made  nigh  by  his  blood ;  they  have  access  by 
one  spirit  unto  the  Father,  and  therefore  they  ought 
not  to  be  accounted  any  more  strangers  and  foreign- 
ers, but  fellow  citizens  with  the  saints  and  of  the 
household  of  God,  and  to  be  built  upon  the  founda- 
tion of  the  Apostles  and  Prophets,  Jesus  Christ  him- 
self being  the  chief  corner-stone. 

Persons  thus  qualified  are  equal  to  every  duty  of 
church  fellowship,  to  singing,  prayer,  hearing,  and 
even  preaching  the  word,  receiving  the  Lord's  sup- 
per, visiting  the  sick,  relieving  the  poor,  in  a  word, 
to  all  the  duties  men  owe  as  church  members  to 
themselves,  to  one  another,  and  to  God. 

They,  who  answer  such  descriptions,  are  so  very 
like  the  primitive  christians,  that,  it  must  be  allowed, 
the  inducement  to  receive  them  into  church  fellow- 
ship is  exceedingly  strong,  so  strong,  that  nothing 
short  of  an  express  prohibition  seems  sufficient  to 
their  exclusion. 

Here  is  one  article,  it  will  be  said,  in  which  these 
believers  do  not  answer  the  description  of  the  prim- 
itive christians ;  they  have  not  been  baptized  by  im- 
mersion ;  but,  let  it  be  observed,  that  baptism  strictly 
speaking  is  neither  repentance  towards  God,  nor  faith 
in  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ ;    it  is  only  a  profession  of 


ihese  graces,  and  church  fellowship  seems  in  the 
very  nature  of  the  thing  to  be  connected  with  the 
graces,  and  neither  with  this,  nor  with  any  other 
peculiar  mode  of  professing  them.  We  are  sure,  the 
church  triumphant  is  formed  on  a  connexion  between 
grace  and  glory,  a  profession  of  grace  sometimes 
accompanying  the  connexion,  and  sometimes  not;  and 
we  are  taught  to  pray,  thy  ivill  be  done  on  earth  as  it 
is  in  heaven. 

Right  to  church  fellowship  either  lies  in  grace 
alone,  or  in  baptism  alone,  or  in  both  united,  or  in 
something  beyond  them  all.  If  it  lie  in  grace  alone, 
then  faith  in  Christ  and  moral  obedience  have  a 
merit  in  them,  and  church  fellowship  is  a  reward  due 
to  such  merit.  An  humble  christian  will  not  allow 
this.  If  it  lie  in  baptism  alone,  then  an  irreligious 
person  may  get  himself  baptized,  and  claim  his  right 
to  church  communion.  If  it  lie  in  grace  and  bap- 
tism united,  then  a  worse  idea  of  merit  than  the 
former  will  return  ;  for  then  it  will  follow,  that  baptism 
gives  grace  its  value  ;  but  this  is  inadmissible.  The 
truth  is,  right  to  church  communion  lies  in  that  royal 
charter,  which  the  clemency  of  God  hath  granted  to 
mankind,  and  by  which  persons  of  certain  descrip- 
tions, though  imperfect  in  knowledge,  defective  in 
obedience,  and  encompassed  with  many  infirmities, 
are  allowed  the  favour  of  approaching  him  through 
the  merit  of  Jesus  Christ.     Title   to  fellowship  lies 


in  the  divine  charter,  meetness  for  it  in  personal  qual- 

This  qualification,  which  I  call  grace,  general 
excellence,  religious  principle,  supreme  love  to  truth 
and  virtue,  perfect  in  kind,  imperfect  in  degree,  is 
essential  to  church  fellowship  ;  and  the  law  of  Christ 
is,  that  his  churches  should  be  constituted,  of  only- 
such  persons  as  actually  possess  this  real,  sterling 
goodness,  which,  being  sufficient  to  answer  all  the 
ends  for  which  churches  are  constituted,  ought  always 
to  be  considered  as  a  clear  warrant  to  admit  to  fel- 
lowship. Of  such  persons  the  primitive  churches 
were  constituted,  and  nothing  can  be  clearer,  than 
the  divine  testimony,  that  against  such  as  these,  who 
bring  forth  the  spiritual  fruits  of  love,  joy,  peace,  long- 
suffering,  gentleness,  goodness,  faith,  meekness,  tem- 
perance, against  such  there  is  no  law. 

Finally;  We  urge  in  behalf  of  our  candidates, 
the  law  of  release  and  deprivation.  We  put  these 
two  together,  because  release  from  duty  includes  in 
it  a  deprivation  of  benefits.  Jesus  Christ  found  man- 
kind in  slavery ;  his  Gospel  finds  a  sinner  in  that 
condition  still  ;  but  he  both  manumits  and  enfran- 
chises this  slave,  he  frees  him  from  bondage,  and 
invests  him  with  privileges  and  immunities.  This  is 
done  in  the  moment  of  regeneration,  and  hence- 
forward this  man  ceaseth  to  be  a  servant  of  men  in 
religious  matters.  He  ceaseth  to  be  his  own,  he 
becomes  a  subject  of  him,   who  died  and  rose  asjain, 


that  he  might  be  Lord  both  of  the  dead  and  the 
living.  The  highest  authority  binds  him  to  duty, 
and  endows  him  with  privilege  ;  and  none  but  the 
highest  authority  can  deprive  him  of  one,  or  release 
him  from  the  other.  This  undeniable  fact  is  full  to 
our  purpose. 

This  argument  is  taken  from  that  obligation,  under 
which  the  legislator  hath  laid  every  good  man,  to 
perform  the  moral  as  well  as  the  positive  duties  of 
church  fellowship,  and  from  which  obligation  neither 
their  own  imperfections,  nor  any  church  acts  of  ours, 
can  or  ought  to  discharge  them.  If  we  refuse  to 
admit  the  believers  in  question  into  church  fellowship, 
they  owe  us  none  of  the  moral  duties,  which  belong 
to  that  condition,  and  it  would  be  unreasonable  in  us 
to  require  them.  When  they  build  places  of  worship, 
support  ministers,  use  hospitality,  provide  utensils  for 
the  celebration  of  ordinances,  contribute  toward  main- 
taining the  poor  and  relieving  the  sick  members  of  the 
church,  they  do  nothing  but  their  duty,  if  they  them- 
selves be  members  ;  but,  if  they  be  denied  the  ben- 
efit of  membership,  all  these  are  works  of  superero- 
gation. Now  we  argue,  that  God  hath  connected  in 
the  holy  Scriptures  duty  with  benefit,  and  that,  hav- 
ing enjoined  the  duties  on  all  believers,  he  intended 
all  believers  should  reap  the  benefit  of  performing 
them.  The  Lord's  supper  is  both  a  duty  and  a  ben- 
efit ;  Christ  requires  all  his  disciples  to  partake  of 
ihe  Lord's  supper ;  but,  if  we  deny  them  the  benefit, 


we  discharge  them  from  the  duty  ;  and  the  same  may 
be  said  of  all  other  church  duties  and  benefits.  Now. 
as  we  pretend  to  no  authority  to  release  from  dutyr 
how  is  it  possible  we  should  claim  an  authority  to 
deprive  of  benefit  ? 

Many  of  these  duties  are  moral  duties,  of  natural 
and  immutable  obligation  ;  and  such  is  the  absolute 
necessity  of  obedience  to  them,  that,  when  a  man  is 
so  circumstanced  as  to  be  obliged  either  to  omit  a 
moral  duty  or  a  positive  precept,  the  latter  is  in  all 
cases  to  give  way  to  the  former.  If  obedience  to  pos- 
itive precepts  must  subside  to  make  room  for  obedi- 
ence to  moral  precepts,  how  is  it  possible  to  con- 
ceive, that  innocent  ignorance  of  a  positive  precept 
should  become  a  release  from  moral  obligations  ;  and 
such  are  many  of  the  duties  of  church  fellowship. 

Waiving  for  the  present  a  multitude  of  arguments 
fairly  and  honestly  deducible  from  scripture  source, 
such  as  the  law  of  positive  institutes,  and  others,  the 
sum  of  what  we  have  said  from  the  oracles  of  God  is 
this.  God,  a  being  possessed  of  all  possible  perfec- 
tions, is  the  author  of  Christianity,  the  founder  and 
friend  of  the  christian  church.  He  displayed  the 
magnificence  of  his  perfections  in  framing  the  whole, 
and  continues  to  display  it  in  governing  every  part. 
The  same  attributes,  that  pervade  and  direct  all  his 
natural  empire,  constitute  and  guide  his  moral  domin- 
ion in  the  church.  His  wisdom  leaves  difficulties 
and  obstacles,  to  us  as  immoveable  as  the  decrees  of 


fate  ;  but  he  leaves  them  to  excite  and  improve  our 
mental  abilities  and  moral  excellencies,  which  he 
intends  we  should  employ  in  diminishing  them.  His 
perfect  justice  never  disqualifies  without  a  crime. 
His  benevolence  produces  the  greatest  social  good. 
His  love  of  holiness  distinguishes  the  righteous  from 
the  wicked,  and  his  patience  and  compassion  bear 
with  imperfections,  both  of  knowledge  and  virtue  j 
hence  we  have  inferred,  that  the  admitting  of  an  un- 
baptized  believer  to  church  fellowship  is,  on  the 
principles  of  Christianity,  a  wise,  a  just,  a  benev- 
olent, a  holy,  a  humane  action. 

We  have  gone  further ;  we  have  examined  many 
express  laws,  given  in  writing  by  Jesus  Christ  to 
his  church  for  the  more  easy  ad  ministration  of  justice 
in  it.  There  are  laws  of  exclusion ;  but  unbaptized 
believers  are  not  in  the  list.  There  are  laws  of  tole- 
ration, which  actually  include  their  case.  There  is  a 
law  of  baptism  ;  but  this  does  not  repeal  any  other 
law,  nor  prohibit  the  observance  of  any  other  positive 
institute.  There  is  a  law  for  the  exercise  of  gifts,  in 
which  the  incorporation  of  some  is  included  ;  and 
there  is  the  law  of  constitution,  which  authorizes  the 
incorporation  of  all  good  men.  We  have  examined, 
finally,  the  law  of  release  and  deprivation,  and  we 
have  thence  inferred  that  the  interests  of  morality, 
and  the  pleasures  of  Christianity,  if  not  diminished  by 
excluding  these  persons,  would,  however,  be  greatly 
promoted   by   admitting  them.     We  do  not  presume 


to  have  exhausted  the  subject ;  there  remain  many 
more  reasons  for  the  practice,  which  we  have  been 
defending ;  but  these  are  satisfactory  to  us,  and,  we 
think,  they  deserve  consideration  by  our  brethren  ; 
however,  the  writer  of  this  does  not  mean  to  lengthen 
out  the  controversy  ;  and,  he  hopes,  should  any 
think  proper  to  deny  all  he  has  affirmed,  no  offence 
will  be  taken  at  his  future  silence.  He  would  not 
seem  to  slight  the  admonitions  of  any  good  man  ;  but, 
on  this  article,  his  judgment  is  settled  ;  he  has  only 
to  add,  Grace  be  with  all  them,)  that  love  our  Lord 
Jesus  Christ  in  sincerity  ! 








Very  early  in  life  I  was  prepossessed  in  favour  of 
the  following  positions. 

Christianity  is  a  religion  of  divine  original. 

A  religion  of  divine  original  must  needs  be  a  per- 
fect religion,  and  answer  all  the  ends,  for  which  it 
was  revealed,  without  human  additions. 

The  christian  religion  hath  undergone  considerable 
alterations  since  the  times  of  Jesus  Christ,  and  his 
Apostles ;  and  yet,  Jesus  Christ  was  then  accounted 
the  finisher  as  well  as  the  author  of  faith. 

The  doctrines  of  revelation,  as  they  lie  in  the  in- 
spired writings,  differ  very  much  from  the  same  doc- 
trines, as  they  lie  in  creeds  of  human  composition. 

The  moral  precepts,  the  positive  institutes,  and  the 
religious  affections,  which  constitute  the  devotion  of 
most  modern  christians,   form  a  melancholy  contrast 


to  those,  which  are  described  by  the  guides,  whom 
they  profess  to  follow. 

The  light  of  nature,  and  that  of  revelation  ;  the 
operations  of  right  reason,  the  spirit  of  the  first,  and 
the  influence  of  the  Holy  Ghost,  the  soul  of  the  last ; 
both  proceeding  from  the  same  uniform  Supreme 
Being,  cannot  be  supposed  to  be  destructive  of  each 
other,  or  even   in  the   least  degree  to  clash  together. 

The  finest  idea,  that  can  be  formed  of  the  Supreme 
Being,  is  that  of  an  infinite  intelligence  always  in  har- 
mony with  itself;  and,  accordingly,  the  best  way  of 
proving  the  truth  of  revelation  is  that  of  showing  the 
analogy  of  the  plan  of  redemption  to  that  of  creation 
and  providence.  Simplicity  and  majesty  character- 
ize both  nature  and  scripture ;  simplicity  reduces 
those  benefits,  which  are  essential  to  the  real  happi- 
ness of  man,  to  the  size  of  all  mankind ;  majesty 
makes  a  rich  provision  for  the  employment  and  su- 
peradded felicity  of  a  few  superior  geniuses,  who 
first  improve  themselves,  and  then  felicitate  their  infe- 
rior brethren,  by  simplifying  their  own  ideas,  by  re- 
fining and  elevating  those  of  their  fellow  creatures, 
by  establishing  a  social  intercourse,  consolidating  fra- 
ternal love,  and  along  with  it  ail  the  reciprocal  ties, 
that  unite  mankind. 

Men's  ideas  of  objects  essential  to  their  happiness 
are  neither  so  dissimilar,  nor  so  numerous,  as  inatten- 
tive spectators  are  apt  to  suppose. 


Variety  of  sentiment,  which  is  the  life  of  society, 
cannot  be  destructive  of  real  religion. 

Mere  mental  errors,  if  they  be  not  entirely  inno- 
cent in  the  account  of  the  supreme  Governour  of 
mankind,  cannot  be,  however,  objects  of  blame  and 
punishment  among  men. 

Christianity  could  never  be  intended  to  destroy  the 
just  natural  rights,  or  even  to  diminish  the  natural 
privileges  of  mankind.  That  religion,  which  allows 
the  just  claims,  and  secures  the  social  happiness  of 
all  mankind,  must  needs  be  a  better  religion  than  that, 
which  provides  for  only  a  part  at  the  expense  of  the 
rest.  God  is  more  glorified  by  the  good  actions  of 
his  creatures,  expressive  of  homage  to  him,  and 
productive  of  universal  social  good,  than  he  is  by 
uncertain  conjectures,  or  even  accurate  notions,  which 
originate  in  self-possession,  and  terminate  in  social 

How  clear  soever  all  these  maxims  may  be,  a  cer- 
tain degree  of  ambition  or  avarice,  ignorance  or  mal- 
ice, presumption  or  diffidence,  or  any  other  irregular 
passion,  will  render  a  man  blind  to  the  clearest  de- 
monstration, and  insensible  to  the  most  rational  and 
affecting  persuasion.  These  positions,  mere  opinions 
and  prepossessions  before  examination,  become  de- 
monstrative truths  after  a  course  of  diligent  search. 
But,  previous  to  all  inquiries  concerning  the  doc- 
trines of  Christianity,  it  is  absolutely  necessary  to 
establish  that  of  christian   liberty  ;    for,  say  we 


what  we  will,  if  this  preliminary  doctrine  of  right  be 
disallowed,  voluntary  piety  is  the  dream  of  an  enthu- 
siast ;  the  oracles  of  God  in  the  christian  world,  like 
those  of  the  Sibyls  in  pagan  Rome,  are  sounds  con- 
vertible to  senatorial  sense  ;  and  the  whole  christian 
mission,  from  the  first  prophet  down  to  the  last  min- 
ister, is  one  long  muster-roll  of  statesmen's  tools,  a 
disgrace  to  their  species,  a  contradiction  to  their  pro- 
fession, a  dishonour  to  their  God. 

Christian  liberty  in  Italy  is  liberty  to  be  a  Roman 
catholic,  that  is,  liberty  to  believe  what  the  bishop  of 
Rome  affirms  to  be  true,  and  liberty  to  perform  what 
he  commands  to  be  done.  Christian  liberty  in  some 
reformed  churches  is  liberty  to  renounce  what  the 
reformers  renounced,  to  believe  what  they  affirmed, 
and  to  practise  what  they  required.  But  we,  who 
have  not  so  learned  Christ,  define  christian  liberty 
otherwise  ;  and,  if  we  be  asked,  What  is  christian 
liberty  ?  we  answer,  it  is  liberty  to  be  a  christian. 
One  part  of  Christianity  consists  of  propositions  to  be 
believed.  Liberty  to  be  a  christian  believer  is  liber- 
ty to  examine  these  propositions,  to  form  a  judgment 
of  them,  and  to  come  to  a  self-determination,  ac- 
cording to  our  own  best  abilities.  Another  part  of 
Christianity  consists  of  duties  to  be  performed.  Lib- 
erty to  be  a  practical  christian  is  liberty  to  perform 
these  duties,  either  as  they  regard  God,  our  neighbour, 
or  ourselves.  Liberty  to  be  a  christian  implies  lib- 
erty not   to   be   a   christian,  as  liberty  to  examine  a 


proposition  implies  liberty  to  reject  the  arguments 
brought  to  support  it,  if  they  appear  inconclusive,  as 
well  as  liberty  to  admit  them,  if  they  appear  demon- 
strative. To  pretend  to  examine  Christianity,  before 
we  have  established  our  right  to  do  so,  is  to  pretend 
to  cultivate  an  estate,  before  we  have  made  out  our 
title  to  it. 

The  object  of  christian  liberty,  that,  with  which  a 
man,  who  would  examine  Christianity,  has  to  do,  is  a 
system  of  christian  doctrine  j  but,  having  established 
the  doctrine  of  right,  before  we  proceed  to  exercise 
this  right  by  examining  the  religion  proposed  to  man- 
kind by  Jesus  Christ,  it  is  absolutely  necessary  to  in- 
quire what  we  ought,  on  sound  principles  of  just  and 
fair  reasoning,  to  expect  to  find  in  it.  I  know  some 
truths  without  revelation.  I  have  a  full  demon- 
stration in  nature  that  there  is  one  God,  that  it  is  im- 
possible there  should  be  more  than  one,  that  he  is  an 
intelligent  Spirit,  and  that  he  is  a  wise  and  bountiful 
Being.  Should  any  religion,  which  pretends  to  be 
divine,  affirm,  there  is  a  plurality  of  gods — God  is 
not  an  intelligent  spirit — God  is  an  unwise  and  an 
unkind  being — I  should  have  a  right  to  reject  this 
pretended  revelation.  Indeed,  should  a  revealed 
religion  allow  my  demonstrations,  and  afterwards  ex- 
plain them  in  a  manner  quite  subversive  of  my  for- 
mer explications  of  them  ;  should  it  affirm,  God  is, 
as  you  say,  a  wise  and  bountiful  Being,  but  he  dis- 
plays his  wisdom  and   goodness  not  in  governing  his 


intelligent  creatures  as  you  have  imagined  ;  such  a 
moral  government,  I  will  prove  to  you,  would  show  a 
defect  of  wisdom  and  goodness ;  but  he  displays  the 
supreme  perfection  of  both  by  providing  for  such  and 
such  interests,  and  by  bestowing  such  and  such  benefits, 
as  have  either  escaped  your  notice,  or  were  beyond 
your  comprehension ; — in  this  case,  I  ought  not  to  reject 
revelation  ;  for,  although  I  can  demonstrate  without 
inspiration  the  wisdom  and  goodness  of  God,  yet  I 
cannot  pretend  by  the  light  of  nature  to  know  all  the 
directions,  and  to  ascertain  all  the  limits  of  these 

Lay  Christianity  before  me  who  will,  I  expect  to  find 
three  things  in  it,  which  I  call  analogy,  proportion,  and 
perfection.  Each  of  these  articles  opens  a  wide  field 
of  not  incurious  speculation,  and  each  fully  explained 
and  applied  would  serve  to  guide  any  man  in  his 
choice  of  a  religion,  yea,  in  his  choice  of  a  party 
among  the  various  divisions  of  christians.  But  alas  ! 
we  are  not  employed  now-a-days  in  examining  and 
choosing  religious  principles  for  ourselves,  but  in  sub- 
scribing, and  defending  those  of  our  ancestors.  A 
few  hints  then  shall  serve. 

By  analogy  I  mean  resemblance  ;  and  when  I  say 
a  revealed  religion  must  bring  along  with  it  analogical 
evidence,  I  mean,  it  must  resemble  the  just  dictates 
of  nature.  The  reason  is  plain.  The  same  Supreme 
Being  is  the  author  of  both.  The  God  of  nature  has 
formed  man   for  observing  objects,  comparing  them 


together,  laying  down  principles,  inferring  consequent 
ces,  reasoning  and  self-determining.  He  has  not 
only  empowered  all  mankind  to  exercise  these  abili- 
ties, but  he  has  even  constrained  them  by  a  necessity 
of  nature  to  do  so;  he  has  not  only  rendered  it  impossi- 
ble for  men  to  excel  without  this  exercise,  but  he  has 
even  rendered  it  impossible  for  them  to  exist  safely 
in  society  without  it.  In  a  word,  the  God  of  nature 
has  made  man  in  his  own  image,  a  self-determining 
being,  and,  to  say  nothing  of  the  nature  of  virtue,  he 
has  rendered  free  consent  essential  to  every  man's 
felicity  and  peace.  With  his  own  consent,  subjection 
makes  him  happy ;  without  it,  dominion  over  the 
universe  would  make  him  miserable. 

The  religion  of  nature,  (I  mean  by  this  expression 
here,  the  objects  which  display  the  nature  of  the  Dei- 
ty, and  thereby  discover  the  obligations  of  mankind,) 
is  in  perfect  harmony  with  the  natural  constitution  of 
man.  All  natural  objects  offer  evidence  to  all ;  but 
force  is  on  none.  A  man  may  examine  it,  and  he 
may  not  examine  it ;  he  may  admit  it,  and  he  may 
reject  it ;  and,  if  his  rejection  of  the  evidence  of  natu- 
ral religion  be  not  expressed  in  such  overt  acts  as 
are  injurious  to  the  peace  of  civil  society,  no  man  is 
empowered  to  force  him,  or  to  punish  him  ;  the  su- 
preme moral  Governour  of  the  world  himself  does  not 
distinguish  him  here  by  any  exterior  punishments  ;  at 
most  he  expresses  his  displeasure  by  marks  attached 
to  the  person  of  the  culprit,  and   concealed   from  all 


the  rest  of  his  fellow  creatures  ;  and  the  glory  of  civil 
society  is  not  to  encroach  on  the  moral  government 
of  God. 

Christianity  comes,  pretends  to  come  from  the  God 
of  nature  ;  I  look  for  analogy,  and  1  find  it ;  but  I  find 
it  in  the  holy  Scriptures,  the  first  teachers,  and  the 
primitive  churches. 

In  all  these  I  am  considered  as  a  rational  creature  ; 
objects  are  proposed,  evidence  is  offered ;  if  I  admit 
it,  I  am  not  entitled  thereby  to  any  temporal  emolu- 
ments ;  if  I  refuse  it,  I  am  not  subjected  to  any  tem- 
poral punishments  ;  the  whole  is  an  affair  of  con* 
science,  and  lies  between  each  individual  and  his 
God.  I  choose  to  be  a  christian  on  this  very  ac- 
count. This  freedom,  which  I  call  a  perfection  of 
my  nature  ;  this  self-determination,  the  dignity  of  my 
species,  the  essence  of  my  natural  virtue,  this  I  do 
not  forfeit  by  becoming  a  christian  ;  this  I  retain,  ex- 
plained, confirmed,  directed,  assisted  by  the  regal 
grant  of  the  Son  of  God.  Thus  the  prerogatives  of 
Christ,  the  laws  of  his  religion,  and  the  natural  rights 
of  mankind  being  analogous,  evidence  arises  of  the 
divinity  of  the  religion  of  Jesus. 

I  believe,  it  would  be  very  easy  to  prove,  that  the 
Christianity  of  the  church  of  Rome,  and  that  of  every 
other  establishment,  because  they  are  establishments, 
are  totally  destitute  of  this  analogy.  The  religion  of 
nature  is  not  capable  of  establishment ;  the  religion 
of  Jesus  Christ  is  not  caoable  of  establishment ;  if  the 


religion  of  any  church  be  capable  of  establishment,  it  is 
not  analogous  to  that  of  Scripture,  or  that  of  nature. 
A  very  simple  example  may  explain  our  meaning. 
Natural  religion  requires  man  to  pay  a  mental  hom- 
age to  the  Deity,  to  venerate  his  perfections,  by  ado- 
ring and  confiding  in  them.  By  what  possible  means 
can  these  pious  operations  of  the  mind  be  established0? 
Could  they  be  forced,  their  nature  would  be  destroy- 
ed, and  they  would  cease  to  be  piety,  which  is  an 
exercise  of  judgment  and  will.  Revealed  religion 
requires  man  to  pay  a  mental  homage  to  the  Deity 
through  Jesus  Christ ;  to  venerate  his  perfections  by 
adoring  and  confiding  in  them  as  Christianity  directs  ; 
by  repentance,  by  faith,  by  hope,  and  so  on.  How 
is  it  possible  to  establish  those  spiritual  acts  ?  A  hu- 
man establishment  requires  man  to  pay  this  christian 
mental  homage  to  the  Deity  by  performing  some  ex- 
ternal ceremony,  suppose  bowing  to  the  east.  The 
ceremony,  we  grant,  may  be  established ;  but,  the 
voluntary  exercise  of  the  soul  in  the  performance, 
which  is  essential  to  the  Christianity  of  the  action, — 
who  in  the  world  can  establish  this  ?  If  the  religion 
of  Jesus  be  considered  as  consisting  of  external  rites 
and  internal  dispositions,  the  former  may  be  estab- 
lished ;  but,  be  it  remembered,  the  establishment  of 
the  exterior  not  only  does  not  establish  the  interior, 
but  the  destruction  of  the  last  is  previously  essential  to 
the  establishment  of  the  first. 

No  religion  can  be  established  without  penal  sanc« 


tions,  and  al]  penal  sanctions  in  cases  of  religion  are 
persecutions.  Before  a  man  can  persecute,  he  must 
renounce  the  generous,  tolerant  dispositions  of  a  chris- 
tian. No  religion  can  be  established  without  human 
creeds  ;  and  subscription  to  all  human  creeds  implies 
two  dispositions  contrary  to  true  religion,  and  both 
expressly  forbidden  by  the  author  of  it.  These  two 
dispositions  are,  love  of  dominion  over  conscience 
in  the  imposer,  and  an  abject  preference  of  slavery 
in  the  subscriber.  The  first  usurps  the  rights  of 
Christ ;  the  last  swears  allegiance  to  a  pretender. 
The  first  domineers,  and  gives  laws  like  a  tyrant ;  the 
last  truckles  like  a  vassal.  The  first  assumes  a  do- 
minion incompatible  with  his  frailty,  impossible  even 
to  his  dignity,  yea,  denied  to  the  dignity  of  angels  ; 
the  last  yields  a  low  submission,  inconsistent  with  his 
own  dignity,  and  ruinous  to  that  very  religion,  which 
he  pretends  by  this  means  to  support.  Jesus  Christ 
does  not  require,  he  does  not  allow,  yea,  he  express- 
ly forbids  both  these  dispositions,  well  knowing,  that 
an  allowance  of  these  would  be  a  suppression  of  the 
finest  dispositions  of  the  human  soul,  and  a  degrading 
of  revelation  beneath  the  religion  of  nature.  If  hu- 
man inventions  have  formerly  secularized  Christianity, 
and  rendered  such  bad  dispositions  necessary  in  times 
of  ignorance,  they  ought  to  be  exploded  now,  as  all 
christians  now  allow  this  theory.  The  Son  of  God 
did  not  come  to  redeem  one  part  of  mankind  to  serve 
the  secular  views  and  unworthy  passions  of  the  other; 


but  he  obtained  freedom  for  both,  that  both  might 
serve  him,  without  fear,  in  holiness  and  righteousness 
all  the  days  of  their  lives.  When  churches  reduce 
this  theory  to  practice,  they  realize  in  actual  life, 
what  otherwise  makes  only  a  fine  idea  decyphered 
in  books  ;  and  by  so  doing  they  adorn  their  Christianity 
with  the  glorious  evidence  of  analogy. 

Suppose  the  God  of  nature  should  think  proper  to 
reveal  a  simple  system  of  astronomy,  and  to  require 
all  mankind  to  examine  and  believe  this  revelation 
on  pain  of  his  displeasure.  Suppose  one  civil  gov- 
ernment, having  examined  this  revelation,  and  ex- 
plained the  sense  in  which  they  understood  it,  should 
endeavour  to  establish  their  explication  by  temporal 
rewards  and  punishments.  Suppose  they  should  re- 
quire all  their  subjects  to  carry  their  infants  in  their 
arms  to  a  public  school,  to  answer  certain  astronomi- 
cal interrogations,  to  be  put  by  a  professor  of  astrono- 
omy  ;  as  in  general, — Wilt  thou,  infant  of  eight  days 
old,  wilt  thou  be  an  astronomer  ?  Dost  thou  renounce 
all  erroneous  systems  of  astronomy  ?  In  particular, 
dost  thou  admit  the  true  Copernican  system  .?  Dost 
thou  believe  the  revealed  explication  of  this  system  ? 
And  dost  thou  also  believe  that  explication  of  this 
revelation,  which  certain  of  our  own  predecessors  in 
the  profession  believed,  which  explication  the  gov- 
ernment has  adopted,  and  which  we,  your  masters 
and  parents,  in  due  obedience,  receive  ?  Suppose  a 
proxy  required  to  answer  for  this  infant ;  All  this,  I, 


proxy  for  this  child,  do  steadfastly  believe  ;  and  sup- 
pose, from  this  hour  the  child  became  a  reputed  as- 
tronomer. Suppose  yet  further,  this  child  should 
grow  to  manhood,  and  in  junior  life  should  be  press- 
ed, on  account  of  the  obligation  contracted  in  his  in- 
fant state,  to  subscribe  a  certain  paper,  called  an  as- 
tronomical creed,  containing  mathematical  definitions, 
astronomical  propositions,  and  so  on  ;  and  should  be 
required  for  certain  rewards  to  examine  and  approve, 
to  teach  and  defend  this  creed,  and  no  other,  without 
incurring  the  penalty  of  expulsion  from  all  public 
schools,  a  deprivation  of  all  honours,  which  he  might 
be  supposed  on  other  accounts  to  merit,  an  exclu- 
sion from  all  offices  of  trust,  credit,  and  profit,  in 
some  cases  a  loss  of  property,  in  others  imprisonment, 
in  others  death. 

In  this  supposed  case,  I  ask,  would  not  the  estab- 
lishment of  this  system  be  an  open  violation  of  the  doc- 
trine of  analogy,  and  should  I  not  have  a  right  to  rea- 
son thus  ? — The  revelation  itself  is  infallible,  and  the 
author  of  it  has  given  it  me  to  examine  ;  but  the  es- 
tablishment of  a  given  meaning  of  it  renders  exami- 
nation needless,  and  perhaps  dangerous.  The  God 
of  nature  has  given  me  eyes,  instruments,  powers, 
and  inclinations  to  use  them  ;  eyes,  faculties,  and 
dispositions  as  good  as  those  of  my  ancestors,  and  in- 
struments better ;  but  all  these  advantages,  which 
may  be  beneficial  to  me,  if  they  confirm  the  truth  of 
the  explication,  may  be   fatal  to  me,  if  they  lag  be- 


hind,  or  ken  beyond  the  bound  of  the  creed.  Nature 
says,  a  constellation  is  a  collection  of  stars,  which  in 
the  heavens  appear  near  to  one  another.  This  is  a 
plain,  simple  truth  ;  I  open  my  eyes,  and  admit  the 
evidence.  Revelation  says,  each  fixed  star  is  a  sun,> 
the  centre  of  a  system,  consisting  of  planets  inhabited 
by  intelligent  beings,  who  possess  one  sense  and  two 
faculties  more  than  the  inhabitants  of  this  globe,  and 
who  worship  the  most  high  God  in  spirit  and  in  truth. 
I  cannot  comprehend  this  whole  proposition  ;  but 
there  is  nothing  in  it  contrary  to  the  nature  of  things ; 
and  I  believe  the  truth  of  it  on  the  testimony  of  the 
revealer.  The  established  explication  of  this  propo- 
sition is  that  of  Ptolemy.  He  numbered  the  stars  in 
the  constellation  Bootes,  and  found  them,  or  suppos- 
ed he  found  them,  twenty-three ;  and  this  number  I 
am  to  examine  and  approve,  teach  and  defend,  against 
all  opponents.  What  shall  I  say  to  Tycho,  who  af- 
firms, Bootes  contains  only  eighteen  ?  Must  I  exe- 
crate Hevelius,  who  makes  them  fifty-two  ?  After 
all,  perhaps  Flamstead  may  be  right ;  he  says  there 
are  fifty-four.  Does  not  this  method  of  teaching  as- 
tronomy suppose  an  hundred  absurdities  ?  Does  it 
not  imply  the  imperfection  of  the  revealed  system, 
the  infallibility  of  Ptolemy,  the  erroneousness  of  the 
other  astronomers,  the  folly  of  examination,  or  the 
still  greater  madness  of  allowing  a  conclusion  after  a 
denial  of  the  premises  from  which  it  pretends  to  be 
drawn  ?     When   I  was  an  infant,  I  am  told,  I  was 


treated  like  a  man  ;  now  I  am  a  man,  I  am  treated 
like  an  infant.  I  am  an  astronomer  by  proxy.  The 
plan  of  God  requires  faculties,  and  the  exercise  of 
them  ;  that  of  my  country  exchanges  both  for  quiet 
submission.  I  am,  and  I  am  not,  a  believer  of  as- 

Were  it  affirmed,  that  a  revelation  from  heaven 
established  such  a  method  of  maintaining  a  science  of 
speculation,  reasoning,  and  practice,  every  rational 
creature  would  have  a  right  to  doubt  the  truth  of 
such  a  revelation  ;  for  it  would  violate  the  doctrine  of 
analogy,  by  making  the  Deity  inconsistent  with  him- 
self. But  we  will  pursue  this  track  no  further ',  we 
hope  nothing  said  will  be  deemed  illiberal  ;  we  dis- 
tinguish between  a  constitution  of  things,  and  many 
wise  and  good  men,  who  submit  to  it ;  and  we  only 
venture  to  guess,  if  they  be  wise  and  good  men 
under  such  inconveniences,  they  would  be  wiser  and 
better  men  without  them.  At  all  adventures,  if  we 
owe  much  respect  to  men,  we  owe  more  to  truth,  to 
incontrovertible,  unchangeable  truth. 

A  second  character  of  a  divine  revelation  is  pr&- 
portion.  By  proportion  I  mean  relative  fitness ; 
and,  when  I  affirm,  a  divine  revelation  must  bring 
along  with  it  proportional  evidence,  I  mean  to  say,  it 
must  appear  to  be  exactly  fitted  to  those  intelligent 
creatures,  for  whose  benefit  it  is  intended.  In  the 
former  article  we  required  a  similarity  between  the 
requisitions  of  God  and  the  faculties  of  men  ;  in  this 


we  require  an  exact  quantity  of  requisition  commen- 
surate with  those  faculties.  The  former  regards  the 
nature  of  a  revelation  ;  this  has  for  its  object  the  limits 
of  it.  Were  it  possible  for  God,  having  formed  a 
man  only  for  walking,  by  a  messenger  from  heaven  to 
require  him  to  fly,  the  doctrine  of  analogy  would  be 
violated  by  this  requisition ;  and  were  he  to  deter- 
mine a  prodigious  space,  through  which  he  required 
him  to  pass  in  a  given  time ;  were  he  to  describe  an 
immense  distance,  and  to  enjoin  him  to  move  through 
it  with  a  degree  of  velocity  impossible  to  him,  the 
doctrine  of  proportion,  would  be  violated  ;  and  the 
God  of  revelation  would  in  both  cases  be  made  con- 
tradictory to  the  God  of  nature. 

The  christian  revelation,  we  presume,  answers  all 
our  just  expectations  on  these  articles  ;  for  all  the 
truths  revealed  by  it  are  analogous  to  the  nature  of 
things,  and  every  article  in  it  bears  an  exact  propor- 
tion to  the  abilities  of  all  those,  for  whose  benefit  it  is 
given.  Our  Saviour  treats  of  the  doctrine  of  pro- 
portion in  the  parable  of  the  talents,  and  supposes  the 
Lord  to  apportion  the  number  of  talents,  when  he 
bestows  them,  and  the  rewards  and  punishments, 
which  he  distributes  for  the  use  and  abuse  of  them, 
to  the  several  ability  of  each  servant.  St  Paul  de- 
picts the  primitive  church  in  all  the  beauty  of  this 
proportional  economy;  the  same  God  worketh  all 
diversities  of  operations  in  all  differences  of  adminis- 
trations, dividing  to  every  man  severally  as  he  will. 


This  economy,  he  says,  assimilates  the  christian 
church  to  the  human  body,  and  gives  to  the  one,  as  to 
the  other,  strength,  symmetry,  and  beauty,  evidently 
proving  that  the  author  of  creation  is  the  author  of 
redemption,  framing  both  by  one  uniform  rule  of 
analogy  and  proportion. 

Full  of  these  just  notions,  we  examine  that  descrip- 
tion of  revelation,  which  human  creeds  exhibit,  and 
we  perceive  at  once,  they  are  all  destitute  of  pro- 
portional evidence.  They  all  consist  of  multifarious 
propositions,  each  of  which  is  considered  as  essential 
to  the  whole,  and  the  belief  of  all  essential  to  an  en- 
joyment of  the  benefits  of  Christianity,  yea,  to  those 
of  civil  society,  in  this  life,  and  to  a  participation  of 
eternal  life  in  the  world  to  come.  In  this  case  the 
free  gifts  of  God  to  all  are  monopolized  by  a  few, 
and  sold  out  to  the  many  at  a  price,  far  greater  than 
nine  tenths  of  them  can  pay,  and  at  a  price,  which 
the  remaining  part  ought  not  to  pay,  because  the  do- 
nor has  not  empowered  these  salesmen  to  exact  any 
price,  because  by  his  original  grant  all  are  made  joint 
proprietors,  and  because  the  payment  would  be  at 
once  a  renunciation  of  their  right  to  hold  by  the  orig- 
inal grant,  and  of  their  Lord's  prerogative  to  bestow. 

What  can  a  declaimer  mean,  when  he  repeats  a 
number  of  propositions,  and  declares  the  belief  of 
them  all  essential  to  the  salvation  of  man  9  Or  what 
could  he  reply  to  one,  who  should  ask  him,  which 
man  do  you  mean,  the  man  in  the  stall  ?     It  is  Sir 


Isaac  Newton.  Or  the  man  in  the  aisle  ?  It  is 
Tom  Long,  the  carrier.  God  Almighty,  the  Creator 
of  both,  has  formed  these  two  men  with  different  or- 
gans of  body,  and  different  faculties  of  mind  ;  he  has 
given  them  different  advantages  and  different  oppor- 
tunities of  improving  them  ;  he  has  placed  them  in 
different  relations,  and  empowered  the  one  to  teach 
what  the  other,  depend  on  his  belief  what  will,  is  not 
capable  of  learning.  Ten  thousand  Tom  Longs  go 
to  make  up  one  Newtonian  soul.  Is  it  credible,  the 
God  who  made  these  two  men,  who  thoroughly  knows 
them,  who  is  the  common  parent,  the  just  governor, 
and  the  kind  benefactor  of  both,  should  require  of 
men  so  different,  equal  belief  and  practice  ?  Were 
such  a  thing  supposable,  how  unequal  and  dispro- 
portional,  how  inadequate  and  unlike  himself,  must 
such  a  Deity  be !  To  grasp  the  terraqueous  globe 
with  a  human  hand,  to  make  a  tulip  cup  contain  the 
ocean,  to  gather  all  the  light  of  the  universe  into  one 
human  eye,  to  hide  the  sun  in  a  snuffbox,  are  the 
mighty  projects  of  children's  fancies.  Is  it  possible, 
requisitions  similar  to  these  should  proceed  from  the 
only  wise  God  ? 

There  is,  we  have  reason  to  believe,  a  certain 
portion  of  spirit,  if  I  may  be  allowed  to  speak  so, 
that  constitutes  a  human  soul  ;  there  are  infinitely 
different  degrees  of  capability  imparted  by  the  Cre- 
ator to  the  souls  of  mankind  ;  and  there  is  a  certain 
ratio,  by  necessity  of  nature,  between  each  degree  of 


intelligence  and  a  given  number  of  ideas,  as  there  is 
between  a  cup  capable  of  containing  a  given  quantity, 
and  a  quantity  of  matter  capable  of  being  contained 
in  it.  In  certain  cases  it  might  serve  my  interest, 
could  the  palm  of  my  hand  contain  a  hogshead  ;  but 
in  general  my  interest  is  better  served  by  an  inability 
to  contain  so  much.  We  apply  these  certain  princi- 
ples to  revelation,  and  we  say,  God  hath  given  in  the 
christian  religion  an  infinite  multitude  of  ideas  ;  as  in 
nature  he  hath  created  an  infinite  multitude  of 
objects.  These  objects  are  diversified  without  end, 
they  are  of  various  sizes,  colours,  and  shapes,  and 
they  are  capable  of  innumerable  motions,  productive 
of  multifarious  effects,  and  all  placed  in  various  de- 
grees of  perspicuity.  Objects  of  thought  in  the 
christian  religion  are  exactly  similar  ;  there  is  no  end 
of  their  variety  ;  God  and  all  his  perfections,  man 
and  all  his  operations,  the  being  and  employment  of 
superior  holy  spirits,  the  existence  and  dispositions  of 
fallen  spirits,  the  creation  and  government  of  the 
whole  world  of  matter  and  that  of  spirit,  the  influ- 
ences of  God  and  the  obligations  of  men,  the  disso- 
lution of  the  universe,  a  resurrection,  a  judgment,  a 
heaven,  and  a  hell,  all  these,  placed  in  various  de- 
grees of  perspicuity,  are  exhibited  in  religion  to  the 
contemplation  of  intelligent  creatures. 

The  creatures  who  are  required  to  contemplate 
these  objects,  have  various  degrees  of  contemplative 
ability  ;  and  their  duty,  and  consequently  their  virtue, 



which  is  nothing  else  but  a  performance  of  duty,  con- 
sists in  applying  all  their  ability  to  understand  as 
many  of  these  objects,  that  is,  to  form  as  many  ideas 
of  them,  as  are  apportioned  to  their  own  degree.  So 
many  objects  they  are  capable  of  seeing,  so  many 
objects  it  is  their  duty  to  see.  So  much  of  each 
object  they  are  capable  of  comprehending,  so  much 
of  each  object  it  is  their  duty  to  comprehend.  So 
many  emotions  they  are  capable  of  exercising,  so 
many  emotions  it  is  their  duty  to  exercise.  So  many 
acts  of  devotion  they  can  perform,  so  many  Almighty 
God  will  reward  them  for  performing,  or  punish  them 
for  neglecting.  This  I  call  the  doctrine  of  religious 
proportion.  This  I  have  a  right  to  expect  to  find  in 
a  divine  revelation,  and  this  I  find  in  the  most  splendid 
manner  in  Christianity,  as  it  lies  in  the  Bible,  as  it 
was  in  the  first  churches,  and  as  it  is  in  some  modern 
communities.  I  wish  I  could  change  the  word  some 
for  all. 

This  doctrine  of  proportion  would  destroy  every 
human  creed  in  the  world,  at  least  it  would  anni- 
hilate the  imposition  of  any.  Instead  of  making  one 
creed  for  a  whole  nation,  which  by  the  way  provides 
for  only  one  nation,  and  consigns  over  the  rest  of  the 
world  to  the  destroyer  of  mankind  ;  instead  of  doing 
so,  there  should  be  as  many  creeds  as  creatures  ; 
and  instead  of  affirming,  the  belief  of  three  hundred 
propositions  is  essential  to  the  felicity  of  every  man 
in  both  worlds,  we  ought  to  affirm,  the  belief  of  half 



a  proposition  is  essential  to  the  salvation  of  Mary,  and 
the  belief  of  a  whole  one  to  that  of  John,  the  belief 
of  six  propositions,  or,  more  properly,  the  examina- 
tion of  six  propositions,  is  essential  to  the  salvation  of 
the  reverend  Edward,  and  the  examination  of  sixty 
to  that  of  the  right  reverend  Richard  ;  for,  if  I  can 
prove,  one  has  sixty  degrees  of  capacity,  another  six, 
and  another  one,  I  can  easily  prove,  it  would  be 
unjust  to  require  the  same  exercises  of  all ;  and  a 
champion  ascribing  such  injustice  to  God  would  be 
no  formidable  adversary  for  the  pompousness  of  his 
challenge,  or  the  caparisons  of  his  horse  ;  his  very 
sword  could  not  conquer,  though  it  might  affright  from 
the  field. 

The  world  and  revelation,  both  the  work  of  the 
same  God,  are  both  constructed  on  the  same  princi- 
ples ;  and  were  the  book  of  Scripture,  like  that  of 
nature,  laid  open  to  universal  inspection,  were  all 
ideas  of  temporal  rewards  and  punishments  removed 
from  the  study  of  it,  that  would  come  to  pass  in  the 
moral  world,  which  has  actually  happened  in  the 
world  of  human  science  ;  each  capacity  would  find  its 
own  object,  and  take  its  own  quantum.  Newtons 
will  find  stars  without  penalties,  Millons  will  be  poets, 
and  Lardners  christians  without  rewards.  Calvins 
will  contemplate  the  decrees  of  God,  and  Baxters 
will  try  to  assort  them  with  the  spontaneous  volitions 
of  men  ;  all,  like  the  celestial  bodies,  will  roll  on  in 
the  quiet  majesty   of  simple   proportion,  each   in  his 



porper  sphere  shining  to  the  glory  of  God  the  Crea- 
tor.    But  alas  ;    We  have  not  so  learned  Christ. 

Were  this  doctrine  of  proportion  allowed,  three 
consequences  would  follow.  First  ;  Subscription  to 
human  creeds,  with  all  their  appendages,  both  penal 
and  pompous,  would  roll  back  into  the  turbulent  ocean, 
the  See  I  mean,  from  whence  they  came  ;  the  Bible 
would  remain  a  placid  emanation  of  wisdom  from 
God  ;  and  the  belief  of  it  a  sufficient  test  of  the  obe- 
dience of  his  people.  Secondly ;  Christians  would 
be  freed  from  the  inhuman  necessity  of  execrating  one 
another  ;  and  by  placing  Christianity  in  believing  in 
Christ,  and  not  in  believing  in  one  another,  they 
would  rid  revelation  of  those  intolerable  abuses,  which 
are  fountains  of  sorrow  to  christians,  and  sources  of 
arguments  to  infidels.  Thirdly  ;  Opportunity  would 
be  given  to  believers  in  Christ  to  exercise  those  dis- 
positions, which  the  present  disproportional  division 
of  this  common  benefit  obliges  them  to  suppress,  or 
conceal.  O  cruel  theology,  that  makes  it  a  crime  to 
do  what  I  have  neither  a  right  nor  a  power  to  leave 
undone  ! 

I  call  perfection  a  third  necessary  character  of  a 
divine  revelation.  Every  production  of  an  intelli- 
gent being  bears  the  characters  of  the  intelligence, 
that  produceth  it,  for  as  the  man  is,  so  is  his  strength. 
A  weak  genius  produces  a  work  imperfect  and  weak 
like  itself.  A  wise,  good  being  produces  a  work  wise 
and  good  ;  and,  if  his  power  be  ecj"jal  to  his  wisdom 


and  goodness,  his  work  will  resemble  himself;  and 
such  a  degree  of  wisdom,  animated  by  an  equal 
degree  of  goodness,  and  assisted  by  an  equal  degree 
of  power,  will  produce  a  work  equally  wTise,  equally 
beneficial,  equally  effectual.  The  same  degrees  of 
goodness  and  power  accompanied  with  only  half  the 
degree  of  wisdom  will  produce  a  work  as  remarkable 
for  a  deficiency  of  skill  as  for  a  redundancy  of  effi- 
ciency and  benevolence.  Thus  the  flexibility  of  the 
hand  may  be  known  by  the  writing  ;  the  power  of 
penetrating,  and  combining  in  the  mind  of  the  phy- 
sician, may  be  known  by  the  feelings  of  the  patient, 
who  has  taken  his  prescription  ;  and,  by  parity  of 
reason,  the  uniform  perfections  of  an  invisible  God 
may  be  known  by  the  uniform  perfection  of  his  pro- 

I  perceive,  1  must  not  launch  into  the  wide  ocean 
of  the  doctrine  of  perfection,  and  1  will  confine  my- 
self to  three  characters  of  imperfection,  which 
may  serve  to  explain  my  meaning.  Proposing  to 
obtain  a  great  end  without  the  use  of  proper  means 
— the  employing  of  great  means  to  obtain  no  valuable 
end — and  the  destroying  of  the  end  by  the  use  of  the 
means  employed  to  obtain  it,  are  three  characters  of 
imperfection  rarely  found  in  frail  intelligent  agents ; 
and  certainly  they  can  never  be  attributed  to  the 
great  Supreme.  A  violation  of  the  doctrine  of  anal- 
ogy would  argue  God  an  unjust  being  ;  a  violation 
of  that  of  proportion  would  prove  him  an  unkind  be- 


ing ;  and  a  violation  of  this  of  perfection  would  argue 
him  a  being  void  of  wisdom.  Were  we  to  suppose 
him  capable  of  proposing  plans  impossible  to  be  exe- 
cuted, and  then  punishing  his  creatures  for  not  execut- 
ing them,  we  should  attribute  to  the  best  of  beings 
the  most  odious  dispositions  of  the  most  infamous  of 
mankind.     Heaven  forbid  the  thought  ! 

The  first  character  of  imperfection  is  proposing  to 
obtain  a  great  end  without  the  use  of  proper  means. 
To  propose  a  noble  end,  argues  a  fund  of  goodness ; 
but  not  to  propose  proper  means  to  obtain  it,  argues 
a  defect  of  wisdom.  Christianity  proposes  the  no- 
ble end  of  assimilating  man  to  God,  and  it  employs 
proper  means  of  obtaining  this  end.  God  is  an  in- 
telligent being,  happy  in  a  perfection  of  wisdom;  the 
Gospel  assimilates  the  felicily  of  human  intelligences 
to  that  of  the  Deity  by  communicating  the  ideas  of 
God  on  certain  articles  to  men.  God  is  a  bountiful 
being,  happy  in  a  perfection  of  goodness ;  the  Gos- 
pel assimilates  the  felicity  of  man  to  that  of  God  by 
communicating  certain  benevolent  dispositions  to  its 
disciples,  similar  to  the  communicative  excellencies 
of  God.  God  is  an  operative  being,  happy  in  the 
display  of  exterior  works,  beneficent  to  his  creatures  ; 
the  Gospel  felicitates  man  by  directing  and  enabling 
him  to  perform  certain  works  beneficent  to  his  fellow 
creatures.  God  condescends  to  propose  this  noble 
end,  of  assimilating  man  to  himself,  to  the  nature  of 
mankind,  and  not  to  certain  distinctions,  foreign  from 


the  nature  of  man,  and  appendant  on  exterior  cir- 
cumstances. The  boy,  who  feeds  the  farmer's  mean- 
est animals  ;  the  sailor,  who  spends  his  clays  on  the 
ocean ;  the  miner,  who,  secluded  from  the  light  of 
the  day  and  the  society  of  his  fellow  creatures,  spends 
his  life  in  a  subterraneous  cavern,  as  well  as  the  re- 
nowned heroes  of  mankind,  are  all  included  in  this 
condescending,  benevolent  design  of  God.  The  Gos- 
pel proposes  to  assimilate  all  to  God  ;  but  it  proposes 
such  an  assimilation,  or,  may  I  say,  such  a  degree  of 
moral  excellence,  as  the  nature  of  each  can  bear;  and 
it  directs  to  means  so  proper  to  obtain  this  end,  and 
renders  these  directions  so  extremely  plain,  that  the 
perfection  of  the  designer  shines  with  the  utmost 

I  have  sometimes  imagined  a  Pagan  ship's  crew  in 
a  vessel  under  sail  in  the  wide  ocean  ;  I  have  supposed 
not  one  soul  aboard  ever  to  have  heard  one  word  of 
Christianity  ;  I  have  imagined  a  bird  dropping  a  New 
Testament,  written  in  the  language  of  the  mariners 
on  the  upper  deck  :  I  have  imagined  a  fund  of  uned- 
ucated, unsophisticated  good  sense  in  this  company, 
and  I  have  required  of  this  little  world  answers  to 
two  questions ;  first,  What  end  does  this  book  pro- 
pose ?  The  answer  is,  This  book  teas  written, 
that  we  might  believe  that  Jesus  is  the  Christ,  the  Son 
of  God,  and  that  believing  we  might  have  life  through 
his  name.  I  ask,  secondly,  What  means  cloth  this 
book  authorize  a  foremast  man,  who  believes,  to  em- 


ploy  to  the  rest  of  the  crew  to  induce  them  to  believe, 
that  Jesus  is  the  Son  of  God,  and  that  believing,  they 
also,  with  the  foremast  man,  may  have  eternal  felicity 
through  his  name  ?  I  dare  not  answer  this  question ; 
but  I  dare  venture  to  guess,  should  this  foremast 
man  conceal  the  book  from  any  of  the  crew,  he  would 
be  unlike  the  God,  who  gave  it  to  all  ;  or  should  he- 
oblige  the  cabin-boy  to  admit  his  explication  of  the 
book,  he  would  be  unlike  the  God,  who  requires  the 
boy  to  explain  it  to  himself;  and  should  he  require 
the  captain  to  enforce  his  explication  by  penalties,  the 
captain  ought  to  reprove  his  folly  for  counteracting 
the  end  of  the  book,  the  felicity  of  all  the  mariners  ; 
for  turning  a  message  of  peace  into  an  engine  of  fac- 
tion ;  for  employing  means  inadequate  to  the  end  ; 
and  so  for  erasing  that  character  of  perfection,  which 
the  heavenly  donor  gave  it. 

A  second  character  of  imperfection  is — the  employ- 
ing of  great  means  to  obtain  no  valuable  end. 
Whatever  end  the  author  of  Christianity  had  in  view, 
it  is  beyond  a  doubt,  he  hath  employed  great  means 
to  effect  it.  To  use  the  language  of  a  prophet,  he 
hath  shaken  the  heavens,  and  the  earth,  and  the  sea, 
and  the  dry  land.  When  the  desire  of  all  nations 
came,  universal  nature  felt  his  approach,  and  preter- 
natural displays  of  wisdom,  power,  and  goodness, 
have  ever  attended  his  steps  The  most  valuable 
ends  were  answered  by  his  coming.  Conviction  fol- 
lowed his  preaching  ;  and  truths,  till  then  shut  up  in 


the  counsels  of  God,  were  actually  put  into  the  pos- 
session of  finite  minds.  A  general  manumission  fol- 
lowed his  meritorious  death,  and  the  earth  resounded 
with  the  praises  of  a  spiritual  deliverer,  who  had  set 
the  sons  of  bondage  free.  The  laws  of  his  empire 
were  published,  and  all  his  subjects  were  happy  in 
obeying  them.  In  his  days  the  righteous  flourished, 
and  on  his  plan,  abundance  of  peace  would  have  con- 
tinued as  long  as  the  moon  endured.  Plenty  of  in- 
struction, liberty  to  examine  it,  and  peac2  in  obeying 
it.  These  were  ends  worthy  of  the  great  means  used 
to  obtain  them. 

Let  us  for  a  moment  suppose  a  subversion  of  the 
Ixxii  psalm,  from  whence  1  have  borrowed  these 
ideas ;  let  us  imagine  the  kings  of  Tarshish  and  of 
the  isles  bringing  presents,  not  to  express  their  hom- 
age to  Christ,  but  to  purchase  that  dominion  over  the 
consciences  of  mankind,  which  belongs  to  Jesus 
Christ ;  let  us  suppose  the  boundless  wisdom  of  the 
Gospel,  and  the  innumerable  ideas  of  inspired  men 
concerning  it,  shrivelled  up  into  the  narrow  compass 
of  one  human  creed ;  let  us  suppose  liberty  of  thought 
taken  away  ;  and  the  peace  of  the  world  interrupted 
by  the  introduction  and  support  of  bold  usurpations, 
dry  ceremonies,  cant  phrases,  and  puerile  inventions. 
In  this  supposed  case,  the  history  of  great  means  re- 
mains, the  worthy  ends  to  be  answered  by  them  are 
taken  away,  and  they  who  should  thus  deprive  man- 
kind of  the  end  of  the  sacred  code,  would  charge 


themselves  with  the  necessary  obligation  of  account- 
ing for  this  character  of  imperfection.  Ye  prophets 
and  apostles  !  ye  ambassadors  of  Christ !  How  do 
ye  say,  we  are  wise,  and  the  taw  of  the  Lord  is  with 
us  ?  LdO  !  certainly  in  vain  made  he  it,  the  pen  of 
the  scribes  is  in  vain  !  Precarious  wisdom,  that  must 
not  be  questioned  !  useless  books,  which  must  not  be 
examined !  vain  legislation,  that  either  cannot  be 
obeyed,  or  ruins  him  who  obe)s  it ! 

All  the  ends  that  can  be  obtained  by  human 
modifications  of  divine  revelation,  can  never  compen- 
sate for  the  loss  of  that  dignity,  which  the  perfection 
of  the  system,  as  God  gave  it,  acquires  to  him;  nor 
can  it  indemnify  man  for  the  loss  of  that  spontaneity, 
which  is  the  essence  of  every  effort  that  merits  the 
name  of  human,  and  without  which  virtue  itself  is 
nothing  but  a  name.  Must  we  destroy  the  man  to 
make  the  christian  9  What  is  there  in  a  scholastic 
honour,  what  in  an  ecclesiastical  emolument,  what 
in  an  archiepiscopal  throne,  to  indemnify  for  these 
losses  ?  Jesus  Christ  gave  his  life  a  ransom  for  men, 
not  to  empower  them  to  enjoy  these  momentary  dis- 
tinctions ;  these  are  far  inferior  to  the  noble  ends  of 
his  coming  ; — the  honour  of  God,  and  the  Gospel  at 
large  ;  the  disinterested  exercise  of  mental  abilities, 
assimilating  the  freeborn  soul  to  its  benevolent  God  ; 
a  copartnership  with  Christ  in  promoting  the  universal 
felicity  of  all  mankind  ;  these,  these  are  ends  of  re- 
ligion worthy  of  the  blood  of  Jesus,  and  deserving  the 
sacrifice  of  whatever  is  called  great  among  men. 


Thirdly  ;  The  destruction  of  the  end  by  the  use  of 
the  means  employed  to  obtain  it,  is  another  character 
of  imperfection.  St  Paul  calls  Christianity,  unity. 
He  denominates  it  the  unity  of  the  Spirit,  on  account 
of  its  author,  object,  and  end.  God,  the  Supreme 
Spirit,  is  the  author  of  it  ;  the  spirits,  or  souls  of  men 
are  the  object ;  and  the  spirituality  of  human  souls, 
that  is,  the  perfection  of  which  finite  spirits  are  capa- 
ble, is  the  end  of  it.  The  Gospel  proposes  the  re- 
union of  men  divided  by  sin,  first  to  God,  and  then 
to  one  another  ;  and,  in  order  to  effect  it,  reveals  a 
religion,  which  teaches  one  God,  one  mediator  between 
God  and  men,  the  man  Christ  Jesus  ;  one  rule  of 
faith,  one  object  of  hope  ;  and,  lest  we  should  imag- 
ine this  revelation  to  admit  of  no  variety,  we  are  told, 
grace  is  given  to  every  one  according  to  the  propor- 
tional measure  of  the  gift  of  Christianity.  Each  be- 
liever is  therefore  exhorted  to  speak  the  truth  in  love, 
to  walk  with  all  lowliness,  meekness,  and  longsuffer- 
ing,  and  to  forbear  another  in  love.  Here  is  a  char- 
acter of  perfection  ;  for  these  means  employed  to 
unite  mankind  are  productive  of  union,  the  end  of 
the  means. 

Should  men  take  up  the  Gospel  in  this  simplicity, 
and,  accommodating  it  to  their  own  imaginary,  supe- 
rior wisdom,  or  to  their  own  secular  purposes,  should 
they  explain  this  union  so  as  to  suit  their  designs,  and 
employ  means  to  produce  it ;  and  should  ihey  de- 
nominate their  system,  Christianity,  it  would  certainly 



be,  in  spite  of  its  name,  a  Christianity  marked  with 
the  imperfection  of  its  authors  ;  for  in  the  christian 
religion,  in  the  thing  itself,  and  not  in  its  appellation, 
shines  the  glorious  character  of  perfection. 

The  christian  religion  unites  mankind.  By  what 
common  bond  does  it  propose  to  do  so  ?  By  love. 
This  is  a  bond  of  perfectness,  a  most  perfect  bond. 
This  is  practicable,  and  productive  of  every  desirable 
end  ;  and  the  more  we  study  human  nature,  the 
more  fully  shall  we  be  convinced,  that  we  cannot 
imagine  any  religion  to  do  more  ;  nor  need  we  desire 
more,  for  this  answers  every  end  of  being  religious. 
Had  Jesus  Christ  formed  his  church  on  a  sentimental 
plan,  he  must  have  employed  many  means  which  he 
has  not  employed,  and  he  must  have  omitted  many 
directions  which  he  has  given.  One  of  his  means 
of  uniting  mankind  is  contained  in  this  direction, 
Search  the  Scriptures,  and  call  no  man  your  master 
upon  earth ;  that  is  to  say,  exercise  your  very  differ- 
ent abilities,  assisted  by  very  different  degrees  of  aid, 
in  periods  of  very  different  duration,  and  form  your  own 
notions  of  the  doctrines  contained  in  the  Scriptures.  Is 
not  this  injunction  destructive  to  a  sentimental  union  ? 
Place  ten  thousand  spectators  in  several  circles  around 
a  statue  erected  on  a  spacious  plain,  bid  some  look 
at  it  through  magnifying  glasses,  others  through  com- 
mon spectacles,  some  with  keen  naked  eyes,  others 
with  weak  diseased  eyes,  each  on  a  point  of  each 
circle  different  from  that  where  another  stands,  and 


all  receiving  the  picture  of  the  object  in  the  eye  by 
different  reflections  and  refractions  of  the  rays  of 
light ;  and  say,  will  not  a  command  to  look  destroy 
the  idea  of  sentimental  union  ;  and,  if  the  establish- 
ment of  an  exact  union  of  sentiment  be  the  end,  will 
not  looking,  the  mean  appointed  to  obtain  it,  actually 
destroy  it,  and  would  not  such  a  projector  of  unifor- 
mity mark  his  system  with  imperfection  ? 

Had  Jesus  Christ  formed  his  church  on  the  plan 
of  a  ceremonial  union,  or  on  that  of  a  professional 
union,  it  is  easy  to  see,  the  same  reasoning  might  be 
applied  ;  the  laws  of  such  a  legislature  would  coun- 
teract and  destroy  one  another,  and  a  system  so  un- 
connected would  discover  the  imperfection  of  its  au- 
thor, and  provide  for  the  ruin  of  itself. 

These  principles  being  allowed,  we  proceed  to 
examine  the  doctrines  of  Christianity,  as  they  are  pre- 
sented to  an  inquisitive  man,  entirely  at  liberty  to 
choose  his  religion,  by  our  different  churches  in  their 
several  creeds.  The  church  of  Rome  lays  before  me 
the  decisions  of  the  council  of  Trent.  The  Lutheran 
church  the  confession  of  Augsburg.  One  nation 
gives  me  one  account  of  Christianity,  another  a  differ- 
ent account  of  it,  a  third  contradicts  the  other  two, 
and  no  two  creeds  agree.  The  difference  of  these 
systems  obliges  me  to  allow,  they  could  not  all  pro- 
ceed from  any  one  person,  much  less  could  they  all 
proceed  from  such  a  person,  as  all  christians  affirm 
Jesus  Christ  to  be.     I  am   driven,  then,  to  examine 


his  account  of  his  own  religion  contained  in  the  allow- 
ed standard  book,  to  which  they  all  appeal;  and  here 
I  find,  or  think  I  find,  a  right  of  reduction,  that  removes 
all  those  suspicions,  which  variety  in  human  creeds 
had  excited  in  my  mind  concerning  the  truth  of 

The  doctrines  of  Christianity,  I  presume  to  guess, 
according  to  the  usual  sense  of  the  phrase,  are  divisi- 
ble into  two  classes.  The  first  contains  the  principal 
truths,  the  pure  genuine  theology  of  Jesus  Christ, 
essential  to  the  system,  and  in  which  all  christians  in 
our  various  communities  agree.  The  other  class  con- 
sists of  those  less  important  propositions,  which  are 
meant  to  serve  as  explications  of  the  principal  truths. 
The  first  is  the  matter  of  our  holy  religion,  the  last  is 
our  conception  of  the  manner  of  its  operation.  In 
the  first  we  all  agree  ;  in  the  last  our  benevolent  re- 
ligion, constructed  on  principles  of  analogy,  propor- 
tion, and  perfection,  both  enjoins  and  empowers  us 
to  agree  to  differ.  The  first  is  the  light  of  the  world, 
the  last  our  sentiments  on  its  nature,  or  our  distribu- 
tion of  its  effects. 

In  general  each  church  calls  its  own  creed  a  sys- 
tem of  Christianity,  a  body  of  christian  doctrine,  and 
perhaps  not  improperly  ;  but  then  each  divine  ought 
to  distinguish  that  part  of  his  system,  which  is  pure 
revelation,  and  so  stands  confessedly  the  doctrine  of 
Jesus  Christ,  from  that  other  part,  which  is  human 
explication,  and  so  may  be  either  true  or  false,  clear 


or  obscure,  presumptive  or  demonstrative,  according 
to  the  abilities  of  the  explainer  who  compiled  the 
creed.  Without  this  distinction,  we  may  incorporate 
all  our  opinions  with  the  infallible  revelations  of  heaven, 
we  may  imagine  each  article  of  our  belief  essential 
to  Christianity  itself,  we  may  subjoin  a  human  codicil 
to  a  divine  testament,  and  attribute  equal  authenticity 
to  both  ;  we  may  account  a  proposition  confirmed  by 
a  synodical  seal  as  fully  authenticated,  as  a  truth  con- 
firmed by  an  apostolic  miracle  ;  and  so  we  may  bring 
ourselves  to  rank  a  conscientious  disciple  of  Christ, 
who  denies  the  necessity  of  episcopal  ordination,  with 
a  brazen  disciple  of  the  devil,  who  denies  the  truth  of 
revelation,  and  pretends  to  doubt  the  being  of  a  God. 
But  here,  I  feel  again  the  force  of  that  observation, 
with  which  this  article  begins.  How  few,  compara- 
tively, will  allow,  that  such  a  reduction  of  a  large 
.>ystem  to  a  very  small  number  of  clear,  indisputable, 
essential  first  principles,  will  serve  the  cause  of  Chris- 
tianity !  How  many  will  pretend  to  think  such  a  re- 
duction dangerous  to  thirty-five  out  of  thirty-nine  ar- 
ticles of  faith  !  How  many  will  confound  a  denial  of 
the  essentiality  (so  to  speak)  of  a  proposition,  with  a 
denial  of  the  truth  of  it !  How  many  will  go  farther 
still,  and  execrate  the  latitudinarian,  who  presumes 
in  this  manner  to  subvert  Christianity  itself!  I  re- 
joice in  prospect  of  that  day,  when  God  shall  judge 
the  secrets  of  men  by  Jesus  Christ  according  to  his 
Gospel ;  when  we   shall   stand,  not  at  the  tribunal  of 



human   prejudices  and  passions,  but  at  the  just  bar  of 
a  clement  God. 

Here,  were  I  only  concerned,  I  would  rest,  and 
my  answer  to  all  complainants  should  be  a  respectful 
silence  before  their  oracles  of  reason  and  religion ; 
but,  alas  !  I  have  nine  children,  and  my  ambition  is 
(if  it  be  not  an  unpardonable  presumption  to  compare 
insects  with  angels)  my  ambition  is  to  engage  them 
to  treat  a  spirit  of  intolerance,  as  Hamilcar  taught 
Hannibal  to  treat  the  old  Roman  spirit  of  universal  do- 
minion. The  enthusiastic  Carthaginian  parent,  going 
to  offer  a  sacrifice  to  Jupiter  for  the  success  of  an  in- 
tended war,  took  with  him  his  little  son  Hannibal, 
then  only  nine  years  of  age,  and  eager  to  accompany 
his  father,  led  him  to  the  altar,  made  him  lay  his  little 
hand  on  the  sacrifice,  and  swear  that  he  would  never 
be  in  friendship  with  the  Romans.  We  may  sanctify 
this  thought  by  transferring  it  to  other  objects,  and, 
while  w7e  sing  in  the  church,  glory  to  God  in  the 
highest,  vow  perpetual  peace  with  all  mankind,  and 
reject  all  weapons  except  those  which  are  spiritual, 
we  may,  we  must  declare  war  against  a  spirit  of  in- 
tolerance from  generation  to  generation.  Thus  Mo- 
ses wrote  a  memorial  in  a  book,  rehearsed  it  in  the 
ears  of  Joshua,  built  an  altar,  called  the  name  of  it 
Jehovah  my  banner,  and  said,  the  Lord  hath  sivorn, 
that  the  Lord  will  have  war  with  Jlmalek  from  gene- 
ration to  generation. 


We  are  neither  going  to  contrast  human  creeds 
with  one  another,  nor  with  the  Bible  ;  we  are  not 
going  to  affirm  or  deny  any  propositions  contained  in 
them  ;  we  only  design  to  prove,  that  all  consist  of 
human  explications  as  well  as  divine  revelations  ;  and 
consequently,  that  all  are  not  of  equal  importance, 
nor  ought  any  to  be  imposed  on  the  disciples  of  Christ, 
either  by  those  who  are  not  disciples  of  the  Son  of 
God,  or  by  those  who  are.  The  subject  is  delicate 
and  difficult,  not  through  any  intricacy  in  itself,  but 
through  a  certain  infelicity  of  the  times.  An  error 
on  the  one  side  would  be  fatal  to  revelation,  by  allur- 
ing us  to  sacrifice  the  pure  doctrines  of  religion  to  a 
blind  benevolence  ;  and  on  the  other,  an  error  may  be 
fatal  to  religion  itself,  by  inducing  us  to  make  it  a 
patron  of  intolerance.  We  repeat  it  again,  a  system 
of  christian  doctrine  is  the  object  of  christian  liberty  ; 
the  articles,  which  compose  a  human  system  of  chris- 
tian doctrine,  are  divisible  into  the  two  classes  of  doc- 
trines and  explications ;  the  first  we  attribute  to 
Christ,  and  call  Christian  doctrines,  the  last  to  some 
of  his  disciples,  and  these  we  call  human  explications; 
the  first  are  true,  the  last  may  be  so  ;  the  first  exe- 
crate intolerance,  the  last  cannot  be  supported  with- 
out the  spirit  of  it.  I  will  endeavour  to  explain  my 
meaning  by  an  example. 

Every  believer  of  revelation  allows  the  authenticity 
of  this  passage  of  holy  Scripture  ;  God  so  loved  the 
the  world,  that  he  gave  his  only  begotten  Son,  that 


whosoever  believeth  in  him  should  not  perish,  but  have 
everlasting  life.  If  we  cast  this  into  propositional 
form,  it  will  afford  as  many  propositions  as  it  contains 
ideas.  Each  idea  clearly  contained  in  the  text,  I  call 
an  idea  of  Jesus  Christ,  a  christian  sentiment,  a  truth 
of  revelation,  in  a  word,  a  christian  doctrine.  Each 
of  these  ideas  of  the  text,  in  forming  itself  into  a  prop- 
osition, will  naturally  associate  with  itself  a  few  other 
ideas  of  the  expletive  kind  ;  these  I  call  secondary 
ideas  in  distinction  from  the  first,  which  I  call  prima- 
ry ;  or,  in  plainer  style,  ideas  clearly  of  the  text,  I 
name  christian  doctrines,  or  doctrines  of  Christ,  and 
all  the  rest  I  call  human  explications  of  these  doc- 
trines ;  they  may  be  christian,  they  may  not;  fori 
am  not  sure,  that  the  next  idea,  which  always  follows 
a  first  in  my  mind,  was  the  next  idea  to  the  first  in  the 
mind  of  Jesus  Christ ;  the  first  is  certainly  his,  he 
declares  it;  the  second  might  be  his,  but  as  he  is  si- 
lent, I  can  say  nothing  certain  ;  where  he  stops,  my 
infallibility  ends,  and  my  uncertain  reason  begins. 

The  following  propositions  are  evidently  in  the  text, 
and  consequently  they  are  christian  doctrines,  ema- 
nating from  the  author  of  Christianity,  and  pausing  to 
be  examined  before  the  intelligent  powers  of  his  crea- 
tures.— -There  is  an  everlasting  life,  a  future  state  of 
eternal  happiness — the  mediation  of  the  only  begotten 
Son  of  God  is  necessary  to  men's  enjoyment  of  eter- 
nal happiness — believing  in  Christ  is  essential  to  a 
participation  of  eternal    felicity — every   believer   in 


Christ  shall  have  everlasting  life — -unbelievers  shall 
perish — all  the  blessings  of  Christianity  originate  in 
God,  display  his  love,  and  are  given  to  the  world. 
These,  methinks,  we  may  venture  to  call  primary 
ideas  of  Christianity,  genuine  truths  of  revelation  ; 
but  each  doctrine  will  give  occasion  to  many  ques- 
tions, and  although  different  expositors  will  agree  in 
the  matter  of  each  proposition,  they  will  conjecture 
very  differently  concerning  the  manner  of  its  opera- 

One  disciple  of  Christ,  whom  we  call  Richard, 
having  read  this  text,  having  exercised  his  thoughts 
on  the  meaning  of  it,  and  having  arranged  them  in 
the  propositional  form  now  mentioned,  if  he  would 
convince  another  disciple,  whom  we  name  Robert,  of 
the  truth  of  any  one  of  his  propositions,  would  be 
obliged  to  unfold  his  own  train  of  thinking,  which  con- 
sists of  an  associated  concatenation  of  ideas,  some  of 
which  are  primary  ideas  of  Jesus  Christ,  and  others 
secondary  notions  of  his  own  ;  additions,  perhaps  of 
his  wisdom,  perhaps  of  his  folly,  perhaps  of  both  ;  but 
all,  however,  intended  to  explicate  his  notion  of  the 
text,  and  to  facilitate  the  evidence  of  his  notion  to  his 
brother.  Robert  admits  the  proposition  ;  but  not  ex- 
actly in  Richard's  sense.  In  this  case,  we  assort 
ideas,  we  take  what  both  allow  to  be  the  original  ideas 
of  our  common  Lord,  and  we  reckon  thus  ; — Here 
are  nine  ideas  in  this  proposition,  numbers  one,  three, 
six,  nine,  genuine,  primary  ideas  of  Christ  5  numbers 


two,  four,  five,  secondary  ideas  of  Richard  ;  numbers 
seven,  eight,  secondary  ideas  of  Robert ;  the  first 
constitute  a  divine  doctrine,  the  last  a  human  expli- 
cation ;  the  first  forms  one  divine  object,  the  last  two 
human  notions  of  its  mode  of  existence,  manner  of 
operation,  or  something  similar ;  but,  be  each  what 
it  may,  it  is  human  explication,  and  neither  synod  nor 
senate  can  make  it  more. 

No  divine  will  dispute  the  truth  of  this  proposition, 
God  gave  Jesus  Christ  to  believers  ;  for  it  is  demon- 
strably in  the  text.  To  this,  therefore,  Beza  and 
Zanchy,  Malancthon  and  Luther,  Calvin  and  Armin- 
ius,  Baxter  and  Crisp  agree,  all  allowing  it  a  chris- 
tian doctrine  ;  but  each  associating  with  the  idea  of 
gift,  other  ideas  of  time,  place,  relation,  condition,  and 
so  on,  explains  the  doctrine,  so  as  to  contain  all  his 
own  additional  ideas. 

One  class  of  expositors  take  the  idea  of  time,  and 
by  it  explain  the  proposition.  God  and  believers, 
says  one,  are  to  be  considered  contemplatively  before 
the  creation  in  the  light  of  Creator  and  creatures,  ab- 
stracted from  all  moral  considerations  whatever ; 
then  God  united  Christ  to  his  church  in  the  pure 
mass  of  creatureship,  without  the  contemplation  of 
Adam's  fail.  Another  affirms,  God  gave  a  Saviour 
to  men  in  design,  before  the  existence  of  creatures  ; 
but  in  full  contemplation,  however,  of  the  misery  in- 
duced by  the  fall.  A  third  says,  God  gave  Christ  to 
believers,  not  in  purpose  before  the  fall ;  but  in  prom- 


ise  immediately  after  it.  A  fourth  adds,  God  gives 
Christ  to  believers  on  their  believing,  by  putting  them 
in  possession  of  the  benefits  of  Christianity.  In  all 
these  systems,  the  ideas  of  God,  Christ,  believers,  and 
gift,  remain,  the  pure,  genuine  ideas  of  the  text ;  and 
the  association  of  time  distinguisheth  and  varieth  the 

A  second  class  of  expositors  take  the  idea  of  rela- 
tion, and  one  affirms,  God  and  believers  are  to  be 
considered  in  the  relative  light  of  govemour  and  sub- 
jects ;  the  characters  of  a  perfect  government  are 
discernible  in  the  giving  of  a  Saviour,  justice  vindi- 
cates the  honour  of  government  by  punishing  some, 
mercy  displays  the  benefit  of  government  by  pardon- 
ing others,  and  royal  prerogative  both  disculpates  and 
elevates  the  guilty.  However,  as  the  govemour  is  a 
God,  he  retains  and  displays  his  absolute  right  of  dis- 
pensing his  favours  as  he  pleases.  A  second  says, 
God  and  believers  are  to  be  considered  in  the  light  of 
parent  and  children,  and  Christ  is  not  given  to  be- 
lievers according  to  mere  maxims  of  exact  govern- 
ment ;  but  he  is  bestowed  by  God,  the  common  Fa- 
ther, impartially  on  all  his  children.  A  third  says, 
God  and  believers  are  to  be  considered  in  the  light 
of  master  and  servants,  and  God  rewards  the  imper- 
fect services  of  his  creatures  with  the  rich  benefits  of 
Christianity.  A  fourth  considers  God  and  believers 
in  the  relation  of  king  and  consort,  and  says,  God 
gave  Christianity  as  an  inalienable  dowry  to  his  chosen 


associate.  In  all  these  systems,  God,  Christ,  believ- 
ers, and  gift,  remain  the  pure,  genuine  ideas  of  the 
text ;  and  the  association  of  the  idea  of  relation  dis- 
tinguishes and  varies  the  systems. 

In  general,  we  form  ideas  of  the  Supreme  Being, 
and  we  think  such  a  being  ought  to  act  so  and  so, 
and  therefore  we  conclude  he  does  act  so  and  so. 
God  gives  Christ  to  believers  conditionally,  says  one ; 
for  so  it  becomes  a  holy  being  to  bestow  all  his  gifts. 
God  gives  Christ  unconditionally,  says  another  ;  for 
so  it  becomes  a  merciful  being  to  bestow  his  gifts  on 
the  miserable.  I  repeat  it  again,  opposite  as  these 
may  appear,  they  both  retain  the  notions  of  the  same 
God,  the  same  Jesus,  the  same  believers,  the  same 
giving ;  but  an  idea  concerning  the  fittest  way  of  be- 
stoiving  the  gift  distinguishes  and  varies  the  systems. 
I  call  it  the  same  giving,  because  all  divines,  even 
they,  who  go  most  into  a  scheme  of  conditional  sal- 
vation, allow,  that  Christ  is  a  blessing,  infinitely  be- 
yond all  that  is  due  to  the  conditions,  which  they 
perform  in  order  to  their  enjoyment  of  him. 

Let  us  for  a  moment  suppose,  that  this  proposition, 
God  gives  Christ  to  believers,  is  the  whole  of  revela- 
tion on  this  subject.  A  divine,  who  should  affirm, 
that  his  ideas  of  time,  relation,  and  condition,  were 
necessarily  contained  in  this  scripture  ;  that  his  whole 
thesis  was  a  doctrine  of  Christianity  ;  and  that  the 
belief  of  it  was  essential  to  salvation,  would  affirm  the 
most  palpable  absurdities  ;  for,  although  the  proposi- 


tion  does  say,  Christ  is  God's  gift  to  believers,  yet  it 
does  neither  say,  when  God  bestowed  this  gift,  nor 
why  he  bestowed  it,  nor  that  a  precise  knowledge  of 
the  mode  of  donation  is  essentially  requisite  to  salva- 
tion. That  God  gave  the  world  a  Saviour  in  the  per- 
son of  Jesus,  is  a  fact  affirmed  by  Christ  in  this  propo- 
sition, and  therefore  a  christian  doctrine.  That  he 
made  the  donation  absolutely  or  conditionally,  before 
the  fall  or  after  it,  reversibly  or  irrevocably,  the  prop- 
osition doth  not  affirm ;  and  therefore  every  proposi- 
tion including  any  of  these  ideas  is  an  article  of  be- 
lief containing  a  christian  doctrine  and  a  human 
explication,  and  consequently  it  lies  before  an  exami- 
ner in  different  degrees  of  evidence  and  importance. 

Suppose  a  man  were  required  to  believe  this  prop- 
osition, God  gave  Jesus  to  believers  absolutely  ;  or 
this,  God  gave  Jesus  to  believers  conditionally ;  it  is 
not  impossible,  the  whole  proposition  might  be  proved 
original,  genuine,  primary  doctrine  of  Jesus  Christ. 
Our  proposition  in  this  text  could  not  prove  it,  and 
were  this  the  whole  of  our  information  on  this  article, 
conditionality  and  unconditionally  would  be  human 
explications  ;  but,  if  Christ  have  given  us  in  any  other 
part  of  revelation,  more  instruction  on  the  subject ; 
if  he  any  where  affirm,  either  that  he  was  given  on 
certain  conditions  to  be  performed  by  believers,  or 
that  he  was  not  given  so,  then  indeed  we  might  asso- 
ciate the  ideas  of  one  text  with  those  of  another,  and 
so  form  of  the  whole  a  genuine  christian  doctrine. 


When  we  have  thus  selected  the  instructions  of 
our  divine  Master  from  the  opinions  of  our  fellow- 
pupils,  we  should  suppose,  these  questions  would 
naturally  arise ; — Is  a  belief  of  all  the  doctrines  of 
Christ  essential  to  salvation  ?  If  not,  which  are  the 
essential  truths  ?  If  the  parable  of  the  talents  be  al- 
lowed a  part  of  his  doctrine,  and  if  the  doctrine  of 
proportion  taught  in  that  parable  be  true,  it  should 
seem,  the  belief  of  christian  doctrines  must  be  pro- 
portioned to  exterior  evidence  and  interior  ability  ; 
and,  on  these  principles,  should  a  congregation  of  five 
hundred  christians  put  these  questions,  they  must  re- 
ceive five  hundred  different  answers.  Who  is  suffi- 
cient for  these  things  ?  Let  us  renounce  our  inclina- 
tion to  damn  our  fellow-creatures.  Let  us  excite  all 
to  faith  and  repentance,  and  let  us  leave  the  decision 
of  their  destiny  to  Almighty  God.  When  Christ 
cometh,  he  will  tell  us  all  things.  Till  then  let  us  wait, 
lest  we  should  scatter  firebrands,  arrows,  and  death, 
and  make  the  hearts  of  the  righteous  sad,  whom  the 
Lord  hath  not  made  sad.  How  many  doctrines  are 
essential  to  salvation,  seems  to  me  exactly  such  a 
question,  as — how  much  food  is  essential  to  animal 
life  ? 

We  will  venture  to  go  a  step  further.  Were  we 
as  capable  of  determining  the  exact  ratio  between 
any  particular  mind  and  a  given  number  of  ideas,  as 
we  are  of  determiningjiow  many  feet  of  water  a  vessel 
of  a  given  burden  must  draw  ;  and  were  we  able  so  to 


determine  how  much  faith  in  how  many  doctrines 
was  essential  to  the  holiness,  and  so  to  the  happiness 
of  such  a  soul ;  we  should  not  then  entertain  a  vain 
notion  of  exacting  by  force  these  rights  of  God  of 
his  creature.  For,  first,  the  same  proportion,  which 
renders  a  certain  number  of  ideas  essential  to  the 
happiness  of  an  intelligent  mind,  renders  this  number 
of  ideas  so  clear,  that  they  establish  themselves  and 
need  no  imposition.  Secondly  ;  the  nature  of  faith 
does  not  admit  of  imposition ;  it  signifies  nothing  to 
say,  kings  command  it ;  if  angels  commanded  it,  they 
would  require  an  impossibility,  and  exact  that  of  me, 
which  they  themselves  could  not  perform.  Thirdly  ; 
God  has  appointed  no  means  to  enforce  belief ;  he 
has  nominated  no  vicegerents  to  do  this  ;  he  has  ex- 
pressly forbidden  the  attempt.  Fourthly;  the  means, 
that  one  man  must  employ  to  impose  his  creed  on 
another,  are  all  nefarious,  and  damn  a  sinner  to  make 
a  saint.  Fifthly ;  imposition  of  human  creeds  has 
produced  so  much  mischief  in  the  world,  so  many 
divisions  among  christians,  and  so  many  execrable 
actions,  attended  with  no  one  good  end  to  religion, 
that  the  repetition  of  this  crime  would  argue  a  soul 
infested  with  the  grossest  ignorance,  or  the  most  stub- 
born obstinacy  imaginable.  Sixthly  ;  dominion  over 
conscience  is  that  part  of  God's  empire  of  which  he 
is  most  jealous.  The  imposition  of  a  human  creed 
is  a  third  action,  and  before  any  man  can  perform  it, 
he  must  do  two  other  exploits ;  he  must  usurp  the 
throne,  and  claim  the  slave.     How  many  more  rea- 


sons  might  be  added  !  From  a  cool  examination  of 
the  nature  of  God,  the  nature  of  man,  the  nature  of 
Christianity,  the  nature  of  all  powers  within  the  com- 
pass of  human  thought  to  employ,  the  history  of  past 
times,  the  state  of  the  present,  in  a  word,  of  every 
idea,  that  belongs  to  the  imposition  of  a  human  creed, 
we  venture  to  affirm,  the  attempt  is  irrational,  unscrip- 
tural,  impracticable,  impossible.  Creed  is  belief,  and 
the  production  of  belief  by  penal  sanctions  neither  is, 
nor  was,  nor  is  to  come.  The  project  never  entered 
the  mind  of  a  professor  of  any  science,  except  that 
of  theology.  It  is  high  time,  theologists  should  ex- 
plode it.  The  glorious  pretence  of  establishing  by 
force  implicit  belief,  should  be  left  to  the  little  tyrant 
of  a  country  school ;  let  hirn  lay  down  dry  documents, 
gird  false  rules  close  about  other  men's  sons,  lash  do- 
cility into  vanity,  stupidity,  or  madness,  and  justify 
his  violence  by  spluttering,  Sic  volo,  sicjubeo,  stat pro 
rati  one  voluntas. 

Were  christians  sincere  in  their  professions  of  mod- 
eration, candour,  and  love,  they  would  settle  this 
preliminary  article  of  imposition  ;  and,  this  given  up, 
there  would  be  nothing  else  to  dispute.  Our  objec- 
tions lie  neither  against  surplice  nor  service-book ; 
but  against  the  imposition  of  them.  Let  one  party  of 
christians  worship  God  as  their  consciences  direct ; 
but  let  other  parties  forfeit  nothing  for  doing  the  same. 
It  may  appear  conjectural,  but  it  is  sincerely  true, 
theological  war  is  the  most  futile  and  expensive  contest, 
theological  peace  the  cheapest  acquisition  in  the  world. 



Although  the  distinction  of  a  divine  revelation  from 
a  human  explication  is  just  and  necessary  ;  although 
the  principles  of  analogy,  proportion,  and  perfection 
are  undeniahle  j  and  although,  considered  as  a  theory, 
the  nature  and  necessity  of  universal  toleration  will 
be  allowed  to  be  as  clear  and  demonstrative  as  possi- 
ble, yet  we  are  well  aware,  the  allowance  of  these 
articles  in  all  their  fair,  just,  necessary  consequences 
would  be  so  inimical  to  many  dispositions,  and  so 
eil'ectually  subversive  of  so  many  selfish,  interested 
systems,  that  we  entertain  no  hopes  of  ever  seeing  the 
theory  generally  reduced  to  practice.  Heaven  may 
exhibit  a  scene  of  universal  love,  and  it  is  glorious  to 
Christianity  to  propose  it ;  it  is  an  idea  replete  with 
extatie  joy,  and,  thanks  be  to  God,  it  is  more  than  an 
idea,  it  is  a  law  in  many  christian  churches,  alas ! 
little  known,  and  less  imitated  by  the  rest  of  their 
brethren.  There  is  a  remnant  of  Jacob  in  the  midst 
of  many  people,  as  a  dew  from  the  Lord,  as  the  show- 
ers upon  the  grass,  that  tarrieth  not  for  man,  nor 
waiteth  for  the  sons  of  men.  These  may  cheerfully 
adopt  the  Prophet's  exultation,  Rejoice  not  against 
me,  O  mine  enemy  !  If  I  fall,  I  shall  arise;  when  I 
sit  in  darkness,  the  Lord  shall  be  a  light  unto  me  ; 
he  will  bring  me  forth  to  the  light,  and  I  shall  behold 
his  righteousness.  In  the  day  that  my  ivalls  are  to 
be  built,  in  that  day  shall  human  decrees  concerning 
conscience  be  far  removed. 







Much  hath  been  written  on  the  discipline  of  the 
primitive  church  ;  but  it  is  highly  credible,  it  orig- 
inated in  some  very  plain  fact,  some  very  simple 
cause  suited  to  the  character  of  Jesus,  and  the  con- 
dition of  his  disciples.  If  a  cause  adequate  to  all 
the  effects  be  assigned,  more  would  be  redundant 
and  ostentatious.  Consider  what  I  shall  say  on  the 
subject,  not  as  an  investigation  of  it,  nor  as  a  reflection 
on  others,  nor  as  an  oracle  to  you,  but  merely  as  a 
sketch  of  the  first  principles  of  a  subject,  which  would 
fill  many  volumes ;  principles,  not  now  to  be  disputed, 
but  merely  stated  ;  principles,  however,  of  real  action, 
and  tending  to  nothing  but  peace  and  virtue. 

The  discipline  of  the  primitive  churches  was  not 
taken  from  the  economy  of  Moses.  That  economy 
was  fastened  to  a  place,  confined  within  a  given 


period  of  time,  and  exhibited  sensible  objects  to  the 
worshippers.  The  late  learned  prelate,  Bishop 
Warburton,  in  his  life  of  the  emperor  Julian,  hath 
clearly  proved  that  the  total  subversion  of  the  Mosaical 
dispensation  was  essential  to  the  very  being  of  the 
christian  economy.  As  a  theory,  this  is  granted  by 
all.  In  practice  the  case  differs.  Some  christians  in 
early  times  lost  sight  of  this  sound  original  maxim, 
and,  unhappily,  incorporated  the  discipline  of  the 
temple  into  the  religion  of  Jesus,  and  on  this  mistake 
the  Roman  church  is  built.  Hence  the  return  of 
christians  back  into  the  bondage  of  infancy,  regulated 
by  meats,  and  days,  and  first  elements  of  erudition. 
Hence  a  ritual,  a  pontiff,  and  a  priesthood.  Hence 
holy  wars,  and  the  defence  of  the  faith  by  the  sword 
of  civil  government.  Hence  a  thousand  institutes, 
all  alien  from  the  spirit  of  him,  who  said,  Behold,  I 
create  new  heavens,  and  a  new  earth.  They  shall  not 
hurt  nor  destroy  in  all  my  holy  mountain. 

The  primitive  discipline  was  not  taken  from  the 
synagogue.  Synagogues  were  a  sort  of  oratories 
resembling  our  meeting-houses,  chapels,  or  parish- 
churches,  erected  not  for  sacrifice,  which  was  con- 
fined to  the  temple,  but  merely  for  purposes  of  de- 
votion, and  its  appendage,  instruction.  It  should 
seem,  for  reasons  not  now  necessary  to  be  mentioned, 
these  houses  were  first  erected  at  the  return  of 
the  Jews  from  the  Babylonian  captivity,  when  the 
condition  of  the  people  made  such  places  necessary. 


In  Babylon  they  had  lost  the  language  in  which  their 
Scriptures  were  written,  and  it  was  necessary  to  rem- 
edy this  inconvenience  by  glossing  the  text  when  it 
was  read  to  the  people,  that  they  might  not  lose  the 
sense  in  a  confusion  of  terms.  Here,  on  Sabbath 
days,  the  people  assembled  to  pray,  and  to  g;ve  and 
receive  instruction  by  reading  the  holy  Scriptures  and 
expounding  the  sense.  Order  rendered  rules  neces- 
sary, and  rules  ripened  into  laws.  In  time  these  laws 
formed  a  system  of  parochial  government ;  so  I  think 
I  may  venture  to  call  the  jurisprudence  of  the  syna- 
agogue.  Many  learned  men  have  supposed  that 
primitive  christians  adopted  this  discipline,  and  regu- 
lated their  social  worship  by  it.  Probably  some  did 
so  ;  but  it  should  seem  they  were  Jews  influenced  by 
prejudices  of  education,  and  who,  having  only  a  slight 
knowledge  of  Christianity,  incorporated  with  it  max- 
ims of  a  polity  not  adapted  to  the  views  of  their 
divine  master  ;  for  it  would  be  easy  to  prove  that  the 
discipline  of  the  synagogue  was  penal,  practicable 
only  in  an  assembly  of  rulers  and  subjects,  and  of 
course  not  fitted  to  a  society  of  equals,  which  was 
the  condition  of  the  primitive  church,  as  will  be  ob- 
served presently.  Some  have  supposed,  the  Lord 
Jesus  intended  to  recommend  this  discipline  by  his 
advice  in  case  of  trespass,  recorded  in  the  xviii 
of  Matthew  ;  but  that  learned  foreign  lawyer,  Pro- 
fessor Boehmer  (let  it  not  offend  if  wTe  add,  the  best 
modern  writer  on   this  subject)  hath  elucidated  the 


text,  and  proved  beyond  contradiction,  that  the  reli- 
gion of  Jesus  did  not,  in  its  primitive  institution, 
admit  of  any  civil  coercion,  and  consequently  that  its 
discipline  was  not  that  of  the  synagogue,   which  did. 

The  primitive  discipline  was  not  formally  instituted 
by  Jesus  Christ.  In  vain  we  search  for  it  in  any  of 
his  public  discourses,  or  private  conversations.  The 
Jews  differed  in  speculations,  but  their  rites  were 
uniform,  because  their  legislator  had  with  precision 
adjusted  every  thing.  But  what  chapter  of  the  life 
of  Jesus  can  any  church  produce,  and  say,  here  is 
our  ritual ;  this  is  our  order  ;  these  are  the  institutes 
of  our  discipline  ;  this  verse  tells  us  how  to  admit  a 
member  ;  that  how  to  elect  an  elder,  a  deacon,  or  a 
teacher  ;  here  we  are  told  how  to  form  a  society  ; 
there  how  to  preserve  it ;  and  in  case  of  dissolution, 
this  instructs  us  how  to  separate,  or  how  to  reassem- 
ble ?  On  these  subjects  the  wise  master  of  our 
assemblies  said  nothing. 

Finally,  the  discipline  of  the  christian  church  was 
not  expressly  appointed  by  the  Apostles.  In  the 
present  view,  the  apostolical  writings  may  be  con- 
veniently classed  under  four  heads.  Some  are  pro- 
phetical ;  as  the  Revelation  of  John,  some  paragraphs 
in  the  writings  of  Paul,  and  some  detached  verses  of 
others.  A  second  class  are  historical;  as  the  Acts  of 
the  Apostles,  and  in  the  Epistles  many  incidental 
names,  dates,  places,  persons,  and  events  Prophecy 
affords  no  rules  of  discipline  ;  history  furnishes  prece- 


dents,  but  precedents  however,  which  are  law  only  to 
such  as  are  in  circumstances  similar  to  those  of  the  per- 
sons mentioned  by  the  historians.  The  third  class  may 
be  called  expository  of  the  christian  doctrine,  as  the 
Epistle  to  the  Hebrews  written  for  the  Jews,  and  the 
Epistles  to  the  Romans,  Ephesians,  Galatians,  and 
others,  written  for  the  Gentiles,  or,  to  speak  more 
properly,  for  societies  composed  of  both  Jews  and 
Gentiles.  Discipline  here  is  an  occasional  subject, 
and  it  is  chiefly  applicable  to  the  then  state  of  the 
societies.  In  a  similar  state  christians  may  adopt 
these  prudential  maxims,  the  end  of  all  which  is 
peace,  peace.  The  last  class  consists  of  moral  pre- 
cepts adapted  to  the  conditions  of  individuals.  Is 
Timothy  an  overseer  ?  He  must  be  blameless.  Is 
Paul  aged  ?  His  advice  ought  to  be  respected.  Are 
you  a  husband  ?  Be  kind.  Are  you  a  master  ? 
Be  just  and  humane.  Are  you  a  servant  ?  Be  con- 
tent with  providence,  diligent  in  business,  and  rever- 
ence your  master.  Are  you  a  member  of  the  chris- 
tian body  of  believers  ?  Imitate  Jesus  your  pattern, 
and  love  your  brethren.  Nothing  of  all  this  can  be 
called  a  christian  ritual ;  and  advice  to  a  church,  like 
advice  to  a  wife,  presupposes  a  state  regulated  by 
rules  not  mentioned  by  the  adviser ;  and  indeed  the 
Apostles  no  more  drew  up  a  discipline,  than  they 
did  a  ritual  for  the  hiring  of  servants,  or  the  cele- 
bration of  marriage. 


What  then  !  Did  Jesus  leave  this  important  arti- 
cle unsettled  ?  No.  On  the  contrary,  he  finished  it 
by  an  effort  of  wisdom  truly  divine.  The  Christian 
discipline  rose  of  itself  out  of  that  condition  of  equal- 
ity, into  which  Jesus  put  his  disciples.  He  took 
twelve  men  of  even  rank,  and  perhaps  with  little  dis- 
similitude of  age  and  ability,  and  constituted  them  a 
family  of  love,  or,  if  you  will,  a  circle  of  friends. 
They  were  his  whole  church.  Here  was  no  master, 
no  servant ;  no  priest,  no  people  ;  no  prince,  no  sub- 
ject ;  no  father,  no  son.  It  was  not  the  union  of  a 
literal  family  like  that  of  the  temple  ;  or  of  a  district 
like  that  of  the  synagogue  ;  or  of  a  vague  multitude 
like  that  which  attended  the  preaching  of  Christ ;  or 
of  an  universal  body  under  the  direction  of  universal 
itinerants,  immediately  inspired,  as  the  churches  were 
after  his  decease  in  the  times  of  the  Apostles  ;  but 
it  was  a  state  of  the  perfect  equality  of  minds  united 
by  mutual  benevolence. 

What  is  discipline  ?  Order.  What  was  primitive 
discipline  ?  Order  without  government,  and  above 
the  want  of  it.  In  this  exuberant  soil  of  peace  and 
freedom  the  human  understanding  unfolds  itself  in 
free  inquiry,  free  from  the  frost  of  nipping  penalties. 
The  heart  mellows  into  ripeness.  Fear  of  God  and 
love  of  his  creatures,  reverence  for  the  first  great 
cause  and  attachment  to  his  image,  meekness,  gen- 
tleness, goodness,  and  devotion,  form  a  fragrant  com- 
pound of  delicious  taste  ;    or,  to  use  the  language  of 


Solomon,  it  is  the  sweetness  of  friendship,  which,  like 
ointment  and  perfume,  rejoices  the  heart.  It  is  not  the 
fabric,  however  ornamented,  it  is  this  moral  excel- 
lence, that  excites  the  exclamations  of  christians ; 
and  this  in  many  a  mean  place  hath  impelled  them  to 
look  upward  and  sing  ;  Lord,  I  love  the  habitation  of 
thine  house,  the  place  where  thine  honour  dwelleth. 

Jesus  left  civil  society  untouched,  and  there  rank 
and  government  are  necessary  ;  but  it  is  a  fact  that 
primitive  christian  societies  were  small,  independent 
bodies  of  equals.  Many  ecclesiastical  historians  have 
observed  this,  and  have  remarked  that  the  first  chris- 
tians never  elected  officers  because  they  had  no  right 
to  teach  or  to  baptize,  but  because  they  had  not  all 
either  ability  or  opportunity  to  officiate.  Even 
women  taught  and  baptized,  but  order  required  them 
to  officiate  only  to  their  own  sex,  and  therefore  the 
first  churches  appointed  them  deaconesses.  In  large 
churches  they  were  numerous ;  they  sat  in  public  in 
a  seat  by  themselves,  and  they  were  distinguished  in 
the  middle  age  by  a  small,  grave  ornament  on  the 
neck.  The  form  of  ordaining  these  female  officers 
may  be  seen  in  the  menologies  of  the  Greek  church. 
In  the  primitive  church,  order  required  a  society  of 
friends  to  visit  and  relieve  each  other,  and,  expedi- 
tion being  necessary  in  many  cases,  it  was  found  ad- 
visable to  elect  a  few  to  receive  and  distribute  relief, 
to  comfort  the  sick,  to  inspect  the  condition  of  pris- 
oners,  to   try  to  procure  their  enlargement,  and,  in 


brief,  to  manage  their  secular  affairs,  as  well  as  to 
wait  on  the  rest  at  the  administration  of  the  Lord's 
supper  and  baptism.  In  our  small  societies  deacons 
execute  these  friendly  offices  without  neglect  to  their 
worldly  employments ;  but  in  large  primitive  church- 
es, as  the  office  took  up  the  whole  time  of  a  deacon, 
justice  required  an  indemnity,  not  to  say  a  reward, 
and  the  church  wholly  supported  their  deacons. 

Hence  in  time,  in  declining  churches,  when  the 
teachers  had  risen  into  a  priesthood,  they  associated 
deacons  into  their  order.  In  the  middle  of  the  third 
century,  it  should  seem,  by  comparing  a  letter  of  Cyp- 
rian with  another  of  Cornelius  of  Rome,  and  a  pas- 
sage in  Optatus,  there  were  in  Rome  at  that  time 
forty-four  christian  congregations  in  the  Catholic  con- 
nexion ;  and  in  these  churches  there  were  on  the 
list  no  less  than  fifteen  hundred  widows,  sick,  poor, 
and  other  objects  of  charity,  wholly  dependant  on  the 
liberality  of  the  church.  To  the  honour  of  the  church, 
they  were  all  supported ;  and  deacons,  who  had  so 
much  employment,  were  honourably  maintained  as 
justice  required.  Such  equity  ought  to  prevail  in  all 
our  modern  offices  ;  and  a  church  that  requires  the 
whole  time  of  an  officer,  deacon,  or  teacher,  ought 
to  support  him  ;  and  an  election  to  such  an  office, 
not  including  an  election  to  a  maintenance,  is  not 




[To  understand  the  force  and  appropriateness  of 
many  parts  of  Robinson's  Village  Discourses  and 
Morning  Exercises,  it  is  necessary  to  keep  in  mind, 
that  they  were  delivered  in  different  places,  sometimes 
in  a  private  dwelling,  an  open  field,  or  an  orchard  ; 
and, also,  at  different  times  of  the  day,  sometimes  early 
in  the  morning,  and  at  others  in  the  evening.  It 
seems  to  have  been  the  speaker's  chief  purpose  to 
render  his  discourses  simple  and  perspicuous,  and 
adapted  to  the  uncultivated  minds  of  his  hearers,  who 
were  labourers,  living  at  a  distance  from  the  stated 
place  of  worsiiip,  and  indifferently  instructed  in  re- 
ligion. Occasional  omissions  in  the  articles  selected 
from  the  Discourses  and  Exercises  are  indicated  by 

As  many  as  are  led   by  the  Spirit  of  God,  they  are  the  soils 
of  God.     Romans,  viii.  14. 

The  old  prophets  had  a  spirit  of  prophecy,  and  a 
spirit  of  holiness  ;  that  is,  they  had  the  Spirit  of  God; 
they  knew  a  little  of  those   future  events,  which  God 



perfectly  understood,  and  which  little  he  imparted  to 
them  ;  and  they  possessed  a  little  degree  of  such 
justice  and  goodness  as  God  possesses  in  infinite  per- 
fection. Jesus  Christ  is  a  new  character,  having  the 
Spirit  of  God  without  measure,  possessing  wisdom, 
justice,  goodness,  and  every  excellence  in  unlimited 
variety,  and  in  absolute  perfection.  What  did  Jesus 
Christ  with  this  fulness  of  the  Spirit  of  God  ?  He 
communicated  it  to  his  disciples,  and  so  sent  them 
even  as  his  Father  sent  him,  saying,  receive  ye  the 
Holy  Ghost.  Christ  did  not  communicate  to  them, 
for  they  were  not  capable  of  receiving  it,  all  the 
Spirit  of  God  that  dwelt  in  him  ;  but  he  communi- 
cated it  in  part,  therefore  they  knew  in  part,  and 
prophesied  in  part.  When  they  were  children,  they 
thought  and  spoke  as  children ;  but  when  they 
became  men,  they  put  away  childish  things.  The 
question  is,  what  did  Jesus  communicate  to  his  Apos- 
tles for  the  Holy  Ghost  ?  This  question  is  properly 
answered  by  distinguishing  extraordinary  powers, 
peculiar  to  themselves,  and  necessary  to  obtain  a 
hearing  of  their  doctrine  in  the  world,  from  ordinary 
communications  common  to  them  and  to  all  other 
good  men  to  the  end  of  the  world. 

When  Christ  came  into  the  world,  and  conde- 
scended to  ask  a  distracted  race  of  men  to  give  him 
a  hearing,  what  glorious  reasons  did  he  stoop  to 
bestow  I  He  healed  the  sick,  he  raised  the  dead,  he 
fed    the  multitude,   he    empowered  his  Apostles  to 


speak  with  clivers  tongues,  and  to  perform  many 
miracles,  all  for  the  good  of  society,  all  to  convince 
the  world  of  sin,  of  righteousness,  and  of  judgment. 
During  the  life  of  Christ  he  communicated  to  his 
Apostles  his  own  ideas  of  things,  what  notion  he  had 
©f  God,  what  of  scripture,  what  of  a  future  state  ;  and 
his  wisdom  made  them  wise.  He  imparted  to  them 
his  own  just  and  gentle  tempers,  and  through  his 
goodness  they  hecame  good.  He  communicated  to 
them  proper  actions,  and  by  seeing  how  he  conducted 
himself,  they  learned  how  to  behave  themselves.  These 
communications,  ordinary  and  extraordinary,  are 
what  one  of  them  calls,  a  receiving  out  of  his  ful- 
ness grace  for  grace. 

Before  Jesus  Christ  left  the  world,  he  promised 
the  Apostles  to  supply  his  absence,  after  he  should 
have  left  them,  by  another  Comforter,  even  the  spirit 
of  truth,  which,  saith  he,  ye  know,  for  he  dwelleth 
with  you,  and  shall  be  in  you  ;  that  is,  the  truths 
you  know  now  shall  be  increased  and  multiplied,  and 
you  shall  know  them  better,  and  more  to  your  com- 
fort, after  my  death  than  you  have  done  before.  After 
his  resurrection,  as  he  had  promised,  he  saw  them 
again  ;  and  while  he  was  eating  with  them,  he  com- 
manded them  that  they  should  not  go  out  of  town, 
but  wait  at  Jerusalem  for  the  promise  of  the  Father, 
which,  said  he,  ye  have  heard  of  me  ;  for  ye  shall  be 
baptized  with  the  Holy  Ghost  not  many  days  hence. 
Accordingly  about   forty   days  after  his  death,   and  a 


few  days  after  his  ascension,  they  received  the  Holy 
Ghost  in  a  rich  abundance  both  of  ordinary  and  ex- 
traordinary powers,  the  first  in  a  very  high  degree  of 
excellence,  and  the  last  in  a  manner  peculiar  to  them- 
selves. The  Apostles  had  these  powers  in  trust  to 
communicate  to  others,  and  they  executed  the  trust 
faithfully  by  imparting  their  extraordinary  knowledge 
how  to  heal  the  sick,  and  how  to  speak  with  tongues, 
to  some  others,  and  this  knowledge  ceased  when 
these  extraordinary  men  died  ;  but  such  ideas  as 
were  necessary  for  the  salvation  of  ordinary  Chris- 
tians to  the  end  of  the  world  they  left  in  writing,  and 
so  bequeathed  as  it  were  to  posterity  that  Holy 
Spirit,  which  they  had  received  of  their  divine  Master 
for  the  use  of  all  mankind. 

Thus  the  history  of  the  Holy  Ghost  stands  in 
Scripture  divided  into  three  periods  ;  the  first,  from 
Adam  to  Christ,  was  a  Holy  Spirit  of  prophecy ;  the 
second,  in  the  life  of  Christ,  was  a  Holy  Spirit  of. 
prophecy,  information,  and  promise,  accompanied 
with  wisdom  to  know  how  to  work  miracles,  and 
power  to  give  it  effect  ;  the  third,  from  Pentecost  to 
the  moment  in  which  the  apostle  John  wrote  the  last 
line  of  his  gospel,  was  a  holy  dispensation  of  wisdom, 
goodness,  and  power,  partly  proper  to  that  age  and 
ceasing  with  it,  and  partly  containing  intelligence  to 
inform  and  direct  religion  to  the  end  of  time.    *  *  * 

Having  thus  seen  the  rise  and  the  accomplishment 
of  the  promise  of  an  universal  religion  under  the  ad- 


ministration  of  Jesus  Christ,  and  having  got  posses- 
sion of  the  book  that  contains  the  whole  of  that  reli- 
gion, let  us  proceed  to  examine  the  book,  and  partic- 
ularly with  a  view  to  the  Holy  Spirit,  and  his  influ- 
ence in  religion  ;  for  as  many  as  are  led  by  the  Spirit 
of  God,  they  are  the  sons  of  God.  To  give  you  at 
once  my  notion  of  the  subject,  I  think  our  Apostle 
took  his  idea  of  the  christian  church  being  led  by 
the  Spirit,  from  that  favourite  part  of  the  history  of 
his  country  so  often  mentioned  #1  the  writings  of  the 
prophets,  and  so  faithfully  recorded  by  their  first 
historian  Moses,  I  mean  God's  leading  the  Israelites 
through  the  wilderness  into  the  land  of  promise. 
Sometimes  it  is  said  simply,  God  led  them  through 
the  wilderness.  Sometimes  it  is  said,  the  Holy  Spirit 
led  them  by  the  right  hand  of  Moses.  Sometimes 
they  are  said  to  be  led  with  a  cloud,  and  with  a  light 
of  fire  ;  and  in  this  manner  the  wise  men  of  the  east 
were  led  by  a  star  to  Jesus  Christ.  God  in  all  these 
cases  made  use  of  means,  and  the  work  was  no  less 
his  for  using  means  to  effect  his  purpose.  In  this 
manner  I  suppose  the  Holy  Spirit  by  the  Scriptures 
guides  all  good  men.  The  cloud  was  not  in  the 
Israelites,  nor  was  the  star  in  the  wise  men  ;  but 
there  was  in  them  a  knowledge  of  the  use  and  intent 
of  these  appearances,  and  a  conformity  of  action  to 
their  own  ideas. 

Here  then  two  things  rise  to  view  in  our  subject ; 
a  guide  without  us,  and  a  disposition  within  us  ;    and 


the  last  seems  to  me  to  be  an  effect  of  the  first,  and 
both  the  work  of  one  and  the  same  spirit.  Sup- 
pose a  world  without  a  Bible,  and  you  have  no  idea 
of  any  Spirit  of  God  as  a  spirit  of  religion  in  the 
inhabitants  of  it.  Suppose,  on  the  other  hand,  a  Bible 
in  a  world  without  an  inhabitant,  and  you  have  no 
notion  of  influence  ;  the  Spirit  of  God  is  there,  but 
nothing  knows  or  worships  him  ;  the  earth  is  without 
form  and  void,  and  darkness  is  upon  the  face  of  the 
deep.  If  God  calls  for  light,  it  will  come  ;  if  for 
land  and  water,  they  will  appear ;  if  for  the  sun  and 
moon,  and  stars,  they  will  be  ;  if  for  fish,  and  fowl, 
and  beasts,  they  will  appear  ;  but  there  will  be  no 
religion  till  man  comes,  nor  then  any  revealed  reli- 
gion till  the  book  and  the  man  meet,  and  then  the 
child  of  God  will  be  led  by  the  Spirit  of  God.  My 
supposition  is  a  fact.  The  Bible  lies  about  in  many 
parts  of  the  world  without  readers,  and  there  lies  all 
our  holy  religion  like  Jesus  dead  in  the  sepulchre. 
There  are,  on  the  contrary,  many  places  where  the 
Bible  is  read ;  but  it  is  not  among  men,  but  mere 
animals,  who  eat  and  drink,  and  marry  and  give  in 
marriage,  and  buy  and  sell,  and  build  and  plant,  and 
are  so  full  of  these  ideas,  that  they  never  attend  to 
religious  truth,  before  death  comes  and  destroys  them 
all.  So  it  was  in  the  days  of  JYoah,  so  it  was  also  in 
the  days  of  the  Son  of  Man,  and  so  it  will  be  to  the 
end  of  the  world.  In  a  word,  there  is  no  magic  in 
the  Bible  to  operate  without  reason  and  conscience  ; 

THE  GUIDE  Of  GOOD  MEN.  151 

and  there  is  no  religion  in  man  without  revelation. 
If  we  lay  aside  the  Scriptures  we  have  no  standard 
to  judge  by,  and  if  we  have  no  judgment  the  standard 
is  of  no  use. 

Let  us  apply  these  general  observations  to  partic- 
ular cases,  in  order  to  understand  how  the  Spirit  of 
God  leads  all  good  men.  We  have  determined,  that 
it  is  by  means  of  scripture  truths,  and  that  it  implies 
the  exercise  of  some  dispositions  in  us.  I  am  aware 
of  the  questions  you  will  ask,  and  I  only  defer  stating 
the  question  till  it  comes  properly  before  us,  as  it 
will  presently  by  supposing  a  case,  which  is  not  a 
mere  supposition,  because  it  comes  to  pass  every 
day.  Suppose  a  man,  who  had  never  thought  of 
religion,  to  lose  by  death  the  first  of  all  earthly 
pleasures,  the  agreeable  partner  of  his  life,  or,  as  a 
prophet  calls  his  wife,  the  desire  of  his  eyes.  O 
dreadful  calamity,  sound  fit  to  raise  the  dead  !  Son 
of  man,  behold,  I  take  away  from  thee  the  desire  of 
thine  eyes  with  a  stroke  !  I  spake  unto  the  people  in 
the  morning,  and  at  even  my  wife  died.  Awhile  the 
man,  thunderstruck,  can  hardly  believe  it  true,  and 
hopes  against  hope,  till  time,  cruel  time,  kills  his 
hope,  and  drives  him  to  despair.  The  more  he 
thinks,  the  more  occasion  he  sees  for  grief.  Every 
thing  he  sees  pierces  him  to  the  heart ;  and  in  every 
place  a  lovely  picture  of  her  that  was,  and  the  ghastly 
features  of  her  that  is  no  more,  meet  his  eyes,  and 
melt  down   all  his  soul  in   wo.     The   sun  does  not 

152  THE    SPIRIT  OF  GOD 

shine,  the  stars  do  not  sparkle,  the  flowers  do  not 
scent,  the  world  does  not  look  as  it  used  to  do  ;  the 
world  seems  dead,  his  house  is  a  tomb,  and  all  his 
domestics  dreary  ghosts.  Now  he  feels  the  vanity  of 
the  world,  takes  ..up  his  Bible,  perhaps  to  look  after 
the  desire  of  his  eyes,  and  try  whether  he  can  find 
any  thing  in  her  present  state  to  assuage  his  pain. 
This  man  hath  religion  to  seek,  and  it  is  indifferent 
which  end  of  the  Bible  he  begins  at ;  either  will  lead 
him  right.  If  with  the  prophets,  they  will  hand  him 
on  from  one  to  another,  till  they  conduct  him  down- 
ward to  Christ ;  if  with  the  Apostles,  they  will  direct 
him  upward  to  the  same  person,  who  is  a  light  to 
lighten  the  Gentiles,  and  the  glory  of  the  people  of 

This  man,  thus  led  to  Christ,  will  be  instructed  by 
reading  his  sermons,  by  observing  his  actions,  and  by 
examining  how  his  Apostles  understood  and  explained 
his  meaning,  by  applying  it  to  several  cases  both  of 
individuals  and  collective  bodies,  which  fell  out  after 
his  death,  and  during  their  inspiration  ;  and  perceiv- 
ing the  truth  and  beauty  of  all  this,  and  finding  a 
satisfaction  in  it  calming  his  mind  and  producing  in 
him  a  pleasure  never  experienced  before,  he  will 
become  a  convert  to  the  christian  religion,  and  choose 
to  make  the  truths  of  it  the  rules  of  his  action,  and 
the  ground  of  his  hope.  This  man  is  led  step  by 
step  to  a  moment  in  life,  in  which  he  becomes  a  new 
man  ;  rises,  as  it  were,  from  the  dead  into  newness  of 

THE   GUIDE  OF   GOOD  MEN.  153 

life.  *  *  *  He  hath  always  been  a  child  asleep  in  the 
bosom  of  his  father,  and  when  he  woke  he  found 
himself  in  his  arms.  Call  in  now  all  the  means  used 
to  lead  this  man  to  the  spot  where  he  now  is,  and 
examine,  which  of  them  made  this  man  a  christian  ? 
Was  it  any  one  of  your  Prophets  or  Apostles  ?  We 
brought  indeed  the  message  which  we  heard  of  God, 
and  declared  unto  him  ;  but  we  were  not  acquainted 
with  him  till  lately  ;  he  had,  when  we  found  him, 
eyes  to  read,  ears  to  hear,  and  understanding  to 
judge,  a  conscience  to  reprove,  and  he  was  in  a  con- 
dition neither  melancholy  nor  mad,  but  disposed  to 
make  use  of  them.  In  a  word,  there  is  a  chain  of 
events,  one  of  which  brings  on  another,  and  of  all 
which  God  is  the  first  cause  ;  and  if  you  can  suppose 
the  life  of  the  man  just  now  mentioned  to  consist  of  a 
chain  of  five  thousand  events,  and  that  three  thousand 
and  fifty  came  to  pass  before  he  touched  the  holy 
Scriptures,  and  that  his  reading  them  was  the  three 
thousand  and  fifty-first  event,  I  should  call  three 
thousand  and  fifty,  acts  of  God  as  the  God  of  nature, 
the  three  thousand  and  fifty-first  an  act  of  God  as  the 
God  of  grace  ;  and  thoiigh  I  should  think  him  led  all 
along  before  by  the  same  God,  yet  I  should  from  that 
moment  date  his  being  led  by  the  Spirit  of  God,  as  a 
spirit  of  truth  and  holiness  revealing  himself  in  scrip- 
ture as  the  Saviour  of  sinners,  and  in  no  other  way. 
When  the  Spirit  of  God  saves  a  soul  from  death,  by 
converting  a  sinner  from  the  error  of  his  way,  what 


doth  he  ?     Doth   he   create  any   new   senses  or  fac- 
ulties, new  eyes  in  the  body,  or  new  powers  in  the 
soul  ?     Certainly  not ;  for  as  there  is  no  want  of  any 
new  powers,  so  if  they  were,  they  would  not  be  what 
Christ  came  to  redeem,   nor   would   they  need  sanc- 
tification.     The  whole  work  of  the    Spirit  seems  to 
me  to  consist  in  two  things  ;    the  one,  a  proposing  of 
the  truths  of  religion,   and  this  is   done  in  the  holy 
Scriptures  ;  the  other,  a  disposing  of  the  mind  to  ad- 
mit the   truth,   and  this  is  done  by   means  of  various 
sorts,  by  prosperity,   by  adversity,   by  education,  by 
conversation,  by   sickness,   and  by   a   thousand  other 
methods,  parts  of  a  whole  complicated   government, 
of  which  God  is  the  first  cause.     In  order  to  explain 
the  subject,  or  rather   (it  becomes  me  to  say  of  such 
a  subject)   my  notion  of  it,   I  beg  your   attention  to 
three  reflections  of  reason,  scripture,  and  experience. 
1  call  it  reasonable  to  give  God  as   much  glory  for 
bringing  an  event  to  pass  by  means,  as  without  them ; 
yea,  in  some  sense  more.     I  will  explain  myself.     It 
is    the    opinion   of   some   christians,    that    the   Holy 
Ghost  regenerates   a  soul  immediately,   that  is  sud- 
denly,  and   without   any   thing  between  himself  and 
the  soul,  and  they  are  zealous  to  support  this  idea  of 
regeneration  for  the  very  laudable  purpose  of  secur- 
ing all  the  honour  of  this  work  to  God.     We  praise 
the  motive,   for  too   much  care   cannot   be   taken  to 
render  to  God  a  glory  so  justly  his  due  ;  but  we  can- 
not see  that  the  work  is  less  bis  for  his  making  use  of 


means  to  effect  it ;  for  whose  are  the  means  but  his 
own  ?  The  more  means  he  thinks  proper  to  use, 
the  more  he  displays  his  glorious  perfections.  In  all 
his  other  works  he  makes  use  of  means.  He  warms 
us  by  means  of  fire,  he  feeds  us  by  means  of  bread, 
he  refreshes  us  in  the  day  by  air,  and  in  the  night  by 
sleep,  he  creates  us  and  brings  us  into  being  hj 
means  of  our  parents,  and  he  removes  us  by  means 
of  diseases.  Name,  if  it  be  possible,  a  single  event 
in  the  whole  world  brought  to  pass  without  means. 
If  we  go  from  the  body  to  the  mind,  still  the  same 
wise  order  prevails.  Our  eyes  distinguish  colours ; 
but  colours  are  not  God,  but  rays  of  light  differently 
disposed.  Our  ears  distinguish  sounds,  but  sounds 
are  only  air.  Our  feelings  find  out  hardness,  soft- 
ness, rough,  smooth,  and  so  on.  There  is  not  a  single 
thought,  in  all  the  multitude  we  have  in  our  minds, 
which  hath  not  been  brought  thither  by  some  means 
or  other.  What  is  more,  every  thought  is  connected 
with  another  thought,  and  that  with  another,  and  so 
on  till  we  are  lost  in  the  distance  or  the  crowd. 

Now,  we  ask,  is  that  which  God  doth  by  means 
less  his  doing  than  if  it  were  performed  without 
means  ?  Is  not  the  last  effect  as  much  his  as  the 
first  ?  Who  gave  us  this  year  a  plentiful  harvest  ? 
You  say,  God.  You  say  right,  because  God  formed 
six  thousand  years  ago  sun  and  earth,  air  and  water, 
wheat  and  barley,  and  fixed  all  in  such  a  state  that 
they  came   to   you  last  harvest   exactly  in  such  pro- 


portion  as  he  at  first  appointed  them.  One  great 
argument  ior  the  truth  of  the  christian  religion  is,  that 
it  exactly  resembles  the  world  of  nature,  and  so 
proves  itself  to  be  the  work  of  the  same  God  ;  and 
if  it  were  not  so,  if  religion  were  not  like  other  things, 
which  we  are  sure  God  made,  we  should  have  no 
certain  rules  to  know,  when  we  received  a  religion, 
whether  it  were  a  body  of  truth  coming  from  God  to 
make  us  happy,  or  a  set  of  errors  contrived  by  wicked 
men  to  make  us  miserable.  Did  ever  any  man  con- 
ceive that  the  sun,  or  the  air,  or  the  water,  or  the 
trees,  or  fish,  fowl,  and  cattle  were  the  invention  and 
production  of  man  f  Nobody  ever  thought  so.  Why  ? 
Because  they  have  characters  of  size,  shape,  dura- 
tion, and  perfection,  above  all  the  skill  and  power  of 
man  to  produce.  Bring  forth  ten  thousand  things 
to  view  having  the  same  characters  of  perfection  in 
their  kind,  and  we  instantly  know  the  maker  ;  but 
produce  something  with  different  characters,  and  the 
author  becomes  doubtful,  and  it  is  no  further  probable 
that  he  created  it  than  as  it  resembles  his  other 
works.  Apply  this  to  our  subject.  If  God  regene- 
rates us  by  means,  if  he  makes  us  wise  by  informing 
us  of  truth,  and  good  by  proposing  good  reasons  to  us 
for  being  so,  then  religion  resembles  his  other  works ; 
but  if  we  be  wise  without  truth,  and  good  without 
motive,  then  a  new  work  appears  without  the  charac- 
ters of  his  other  works,  and  consequently  without 
any  evidence  to  persuade  us  it  is  his.     Thus,  reason 

THE  GUIDE  0¥  GOOD  MEN.  157 

seems  to  plead  for  the  truth  of  our  notion  of  the  work 
of  the  Holy  Spirit. 

The  chief  objection  against  this  account  seems  to 
me  a  strong  reason  in  favour  of  it.  If  this  account 
be  true,  say  some,  the  work  of  the  Spirit  may  be 
explained  and  described  as  clearly  as  any  other  part 
of  religion,  and  we  shall  know  what  the  work  of  the 
Spirit  is  ;  whereas  we  have  been  taught  to  believe 
that  the  work  is  a  mystery,  which  no  man  knowethr 
no,  not  he  that  receiveth  it ;  and  this  notion  seems 
confirmed  by  this  text,  the  wind  bloiveth  where  it 
Hsteth,  and  thou  hearest  the  sound  thereof,  but  canst 
not  tell  whence  it  cometh,  and  whither  it  goeth ;  so 
is  every  one  that  is  born  of  the  Spirit.  In  answer 
to  this,  and  every  other  objection  taken  from  Scrip- 
ture, we  have  proposed  to  make  a  second  reflection 
on  the  language  of  Scripture  concerning  this  subject, 
and  we  shall  put  the  passages  into  two   classes. 

In  the  first,  we  put  such  as  speak  of  this  work  under 
figures  or  similitudes  ;  as  where  the  Spirit  is  said  to 
be  like  wind,  fire,  water.  All  Scriptures  of  this  kind 
are  explained  by  one  distinction  between  the  nature 
and  the  effects  of  things.  It  is  one  thing  to  know  the 
nature  of  fire,  and  air,  and  water,  and  it  is  another  to 
know  the  effects  they  produce.  No  man  fully  knows 
the  first ;  but  the  last  are  as  clear  as  daylight.  Is 
there  a  man  in  this  assembly,  who  doth  not  know, 
what  effect  fire  will  produce  in  wood  or  water,  and 
wind  in  mill  work,  and  so  on  ?  When  our  Lord  said, 


Every  one  that  is  born  of  the  Spirit  is  so  as  you, 
Nicodemus,  are  in  the  wind  ;  he  knows  the  effects, 
and  that  knowledge  is  sufficient  to  direct  his  actions  ; 
my  instructions  are  intended  to  make  men  good  men, 
and  not  philosophers.  Observe,  it  was  Nicodemus 
who  said,  how  can  these  things  be  ?  And  the 
reproof  given  him  by  Jesus  Christ  would  have  been 
improper  had  the  subject  been  a  mystery  ;  art  thou  a 
master  of  Israel  and  knoivest  not  these  things.  We 
speak  that  we  do  know  and  testify  that  we  have  seen. 
The  subject  of  their  conversation  was  not  the  nature 
of  the  Spirit,  but  his  influences  in  religion.  Now, 
said  our  Lord,  the  religion  I  teach  is  spiritual,  it  doth 
not  stand  like  yours  in  meats  and  drinks,  and  divers 
washings,  and  carnal  ordinances  imposed  until  the 
time  of  reformation  for  the  purifying  of  the  flesh,  but 
in  effects  upon  the  mind  and  heart ;  you  see  no  tem- 
ple, no  priesthood,  no  sacrifices  in  my  religion  ;  let 
not  this  offend  you  ;  my  religion  resembles  the  wind, 
which  no  man  ever  saw,  but  the  effects  of  which  you 
and  all  other  men  perfectly  understand.  The  wind 
bloweth  where  it  listeth,  and  thou  hearest  the  sound 
thereof,  but  canst  not  tell  whence  it  cometh  and  whither 
it  goeth  ;  so  is  every  one  that  is  born  of  the  Spirit. 
In  this  manner  expound  all  the  passages  that  speak 
of  the  Spirit's  work  under  similitudes,  and  you  will 
find  no  difficulty  in  them. 

In  a  second  class,  I  put  all  such  Scriptures  as  de- 
scribe the  work  of  the  Spirit.    The  apostle  Peter  had 


seen  a  great  deal  of  this  work,  and  one   day  of  his 
life,  such  a  day  as  that  in  which  three  thousand  souls 
were  added,  produced   more  and  better  experiments 
than  ordinary  teachers  have  an  opportunity  of  seeing 
in  their  whole  life.     He  saw  religion  in  every  form, 
and    examined    single    conversions,    separately    and 
alone,  and  his  whole  life  was  a  course  of  experiments, 
a  part  of  which  are  recorded   in  Acts  j    and  we  have 
reason  to  believe,  though  we  have  no  account  of  the 
twenty-four  last  years  of  his  life  in  Scripture,  that  he 
continued  to  old   age   in   the   exercise  of  instructing 
and   converting   mankind,   or,   as  our   Lord   call?  it; 
feeding  the  lambs  and  the  sheep  of  Christ.     The  tes- 
timony of  such  a  man  is  extremely  respectable.     It 
is  a  testimony  of  inspiration  explained  and  confirmed 
by  experiment.     Now  he   says,  that  the  strangers 
scattered  throughout   Pontus,  and    other    countries, 
who  were  elect  through  sanctification  of  the  Spirit, 
were  horn  again  of  incorruptible  seed  by  the  word  of 
God,  ivhich  word  by   the    Gospel  was  preached  unto 
them.     This  account  of  regeneration  is  partly  literal, 
and  partly  figurative.      The   Gospel   is  the   word  of 
God  ;    the  Gospel  was   preached  unto  you.     These 
are  literally  true.     The  Gospel  containing   the  word 
of  God  which  was  preached  unto  you  is  an  incorrup- 
tible seed,  of  which  you  were  born  again  ;    these  are 
figurative  expressions,  and  must  be  expounded  by  the 
literal  terms,  and  clearly  mean  a  dependence  of  the 
three  excellencies  that  constitute  a  regenerate  man 


on  the  three  principal  parts  of  religion,  in  which  they 
hacl  been  instructed. 

The  Gospel  proposes  a  set  of  clear  truths ;  Chris- 
tians examine  and  believe  these  truths.  The  Gospel 
proposes  a  set  of  motives  ;  Christians  feel  these 
motives  ;  fear  hell,  desire  heaven,  love  holiness,  and 
so  on.  The  Gospel  proposes  a  set  of  rules  to  live  by; 
Christians  reduce  these  rules  to  practice.  Christians 
thus  are  born  into  a  new  world,  having  the  new 
■powers  necessary  to  live  in  that  world  ;  they  have 
new  objects  and  new  ideas ;  they  have  new  motives 
and  new  feelings  ;  they  have  new  laws  and  a  new 
life.  The  apostle  not  only  saw  all  this  in  others, 
but  he  felt  all  this  exemplified  in  himself.  He  was  in 
the  exercise  of  bis  trade,  casting  a  net  into  the  sea, 
when  a  person  walking  on  the  beach  called  to  him, 
and  said,  follow  me,  and  I  will  make  you  a  fisher  of 
men.  This  word  of  the  Lord  was  like  that  at  the 
creation,  let  there  be  light ;  and  the  history  of  the 
rest  of  Peter's  existence  may  be  contained  in  this 
word,  there  was  light.  When  he  afterward  fell  into 
a  swoon,  and  returned  again  to  sin  and  to  fishing,  he 
was  begotten  again,  unto  a  lively  hone,  not  without 
means,  but  by  the  resurrection  of  Jesus  Christ  from 
the  dead.  Here  is  the  work,  the  whole  ordinary 
work  of  the  Holy  Spirit,  but  all  wrought  by  means  ; 
these  strangers  purified  their  souls  in  obeying  the 
truth  through  the  Spirit,  that  is,  through  the  knowl- 
edge  of  things   reported    unto   them,    by    them   that 


preached  the  Gospel  with  the  Holy  Ghost  sent  down 
from  heaven,  to  enable   the  preachers   to  speak  the 
divers  tongues  of  these  strangers,  and  of  all  others  to 
whom  they  were  sent,   that  so  their  faith  might  stand 
on  what  they  clearly  understood.       ***** 
This  brings  us  to  our   last  reflection  on   christian 
experience.     If  means  have  no  place  in  the  christian 
religion  till  after  the   production  of  something  in  the 
soul  containing  the  whole  new  man,   then  the  use  of 
means   is  only  to  nourish  and   cherish  this  new  prin- 
ciple, that  is  to  say,  they   are   to  a  christian  what  air 
and  earth  and  moisture  are  to  an  acorn.     All  chris- 
tians seem  to  act   as  if  they  thought  the   means  ap- 
pointed to  produce  the  end,   and  the   fitness  of  the 
means  is  the  support  of  christian   action.     On   this 
principle  we  educate   our   children,  because   instruc- 
tion seems  to  us  a  proper  method  of  producing   in 
them  knowledge.    On  this  principle  we  read  and  ex- 
pound the  Scriptures  in  public  ;    not   that  the  Scrip- 
tures want  any  expounding,    to    cool   and    attentive 
minds,  but  because  the  minds  of  most   men  are  not 
in  such  a  state,  but  blinded  with  prejudice,  custom, 
and   passion,  and  because  we   know  such  a  mind  is 
not  prepared  to  attend  to  reason.     On  this  princi- 
ple we  address  the  Gospel  not  only  to  the  righteous 
and  well  disposed,  but  also  to  men  of  a   quite  differ- 
ent character. 

One  great  argument  in  defence  of  our  holy  reli- 
gion is  that  it  is  fitted  not  only  to  saints,  but  also  to 

]'.  J  THE   SPIRIT  OF  GOD 

sinners,  even  to  such  as  are  in  the  last  and  most 
deplorable  stages  of  vice.  If  you  say,  God  works  in 
the  means  ;  tins  is  what  we  plead  for  ;  if  you  affirm 
on  the  contrary  that  he  works  immediately,  then 
there  is  no  more  fitness  in  instructing  the  ignorant, 
and  reasoning  with  the  wicked,  and  expecting  knowl- 
edge and  reformation  to  follow,  than  there  would  be 
in  planting  and  watering  flints  and  pebbles,  and  ex- 
pecting them  to  grow  into  oaks.  Go  further,  go  back 
to  the  regeneration  of  any  one  christian  in  this  assem- 
bly, and  divide  yourselves  into  two  parts.  Some  of 
you  do  not  know  the  time  of  your  conversion  ;  that 
is  as  much  as  to  say,  the  work  of  the  Spirit  was  so 
connected  with  other  events  that  one  thing  brought 
on  another  till  all  together  issued  in  your  conversion, 
for  you  are  a  sincere  convert  to  the  faith  of  Christ. 
Others  of  you  resemble  the  man  supposed  some  time 
ago,  and  you  know  what  events  fell  out  when  you 
became  christians ;  but  the  connexion  of  an  effect 
with  a  cause  destroys  the  notion  of  immediate  influ- 
ence. One  says,  such  a  providence  set  me  a  think- 
ing ;  another  says,  such  a  discourse  set  me  a  repent- 
ing ;  a  third  says,  such  a  book  gave  me  information 
that  produced  comfort.  All  of  us  believe,  the  means 
of  religion  are  highly  fitted  to  answer  their  end  ;  and 
the  certainty  of  obtaining  the  end  in  the  use  of  means,  1 
is  the  sun  that  rules  the  day,  and  the  moon  that  rule? 
the  night  of  life.    v>sh  blu* 

THE   GUIDE  OF  GOOD  MEN'.  168 

We  cannot  conclude  this  subject  without  two  reflec- 
tions. First,  we  perceive  a  wonderful  inclination  in 
christians  toward  something  in  religion  so  sublime  as 
not  to  be  understood  ;  whereas  the  true  sublimity  of 
religion  lies  in  its  plainness,  as  the  true  excellence 
and  dignity  of  man  consist  in  his  becoming  such  a 
plain  man  as  Jesus  Christ  was.  This  inclination  is  a 
remnant  of  the  old  education  given  this  country  by 
monks  and  priests,  whose  majesty  stood  in  the  credu- 
lousness  of  their  followers.  They  made  creeds,  or 
articles  to  be  believed,  and  gave  them  to  our  forefath- 
ers to  say  over.  You  do  not  understand  them,  said 
they,  but  we  do  ;  and,  while  they  were  doing  that,  the 
creed-makers  ran  away  with  their  houses  and  lands. 
Let  us  renounce  this  disposition,  and  let  us  believe 
nothing  but  what  we  understand. 

Lastly,  we  observe  with  great  pleasure  that  all 
christians  allow  the  Spirit  of  God  is  a  Holy  Spirit ; 
and  even  they  who  think  him  hidden,  think  they  have 
no  right  to  conclude  he  is  where  they  suppose,  till  the 
fruits  of  a  holy  life  declare  it.  Should  a  man,  who 
had  lived  wickedly  all  his  days,  be  intoxicated  with 
liquor  over  night  and  regenerated  at  six  next  morn- 
ing by  an  immediate  work  of  the  Spirit,  no  christians 
would  believe  it  that  day ;  and  should  he,  like  Saul, 
assay  to  join  himself  to  the  disciples,  they  would  be 
all  afraid  of  him,  and  not  believe  that  he  was  a  dis^ 
ciple  till  some  Barnabas  should  declare  two  things 
unto  them  ;  one,  how  the  Lord  had  spoken  to  him ; 



and  the  other,  how  he  had  boldly  preached  at  Da- 
mascus ;  till  he  had  given  substantial  proofs  by  his 
conduct  that  his  pretensions  were  true  and  real.  If 
an  extraordinary  conversion  was  not  credible  without 
proof,  how  much  less  are  ordinary  changes  ?  The 
proof  of  proofs  is  laid  by  the  Holy  Spirit  where  it 
ought  to  be.  if  ye  be  led  by  the  Spirit,  ye  are  not 
under  the  law,  for  the  fruit  of  the  Spirit  is  love,  joy, 
peace,  longsuffering,  gentleness,  goodness,  faith,  meek- 
ness, temperance  ;  against  such  there  is  no  law.  Let 
not  a  man  think  himself  to  be  something  when  he  is  noth- 
ing ;  but  let  every  man  prove  his  own  ivork,  and  then 
shall  he  have  rejoicing  in  himself  alone,  and  not  in 
another  man. 

[J  n 
IT  29911  ri  iol 
do    h9biu§2im 



9iB  aw  tbn/iJ3iohnri  oJ  e' 
tiorfa  9  no   ovsd  977 

10     T; 

AbOI  bttR    91H1  919W  $#£ 

(Ofbiw  aidlbs'io  Jfon 


9'ieriw   JniqS 



When  ye  fedd,  ye  may  understand  my  knowledge  in  the 
mystery  of  Christ.     Ephes.  iii.  4. 

By  Christianity,  I  mean  that  religion  which  Jesus 
Christ  taught  his  disciples,  and  which  is  all  contain- 
ed in  the  New  Testament.  Retain  this  observation, 
for  it  frees  the  subject  from  many  difficulties.  Some 
misguided  christians  propose  a  great  number  of 
mysteries,  that  is,  secrets  to  us  ;  such  as  that  the 
bread  and  wine  in  the  Lord's  supper  cease  to  be 
bread  and  wine,  and  become  the  flesh,  and  bones, 
and  blood  of  Christ ;  such  as  that  a  wicked  man  is 
inspired  by  the  Holy  Ghost  to  lead  us  to  heaven 
without  our  knowing  the  way ;  and  that  these  won- 
ders are  performed  by  the  uttering  of  certain  words 
by  a  certain  set  of  men  ;  and  these  secrets,  which 
nobody  so  much  as  pretends  to  understand,  we  are 
required  to  believe.  However,  we  have  one  short 
answer  for  all  mysteries  of  this  kind  $  that  is,  they  are 


not  taught  in  the  New  Testament,  and  therefore  they 
are  no  parts  of  the  christian  religion. 

When  I  affirm  the  christian  religion  is  not  a  secret, 
observe,  I  speak  of  Christianity  now,  and  not  former- 
ly. Thus  we  free  the  subject  from  all  the  objections 
which  are  made  against  it  from  many  passages  in  the 
New  Testament.  Christianity,  say  some,  is  often 
called  a  mystery,  or  a  secret ;  even  the  text  calls  it 
so.  True ;  but  the  same  text  says,  Paul  knew  this 
secret,  and  the  Ephesians  might  understand  what  he 
knew  of  it,  if  they  would  read  what  he  wrote  to  them. 
When  ye  read,  ye  may  understand  my  knowledge  in 
the  mystery  of  Christ. 

Strictly  speaking,  the  text  intends  only  one  part 
of  Christianity,  that  is,  the  uniting  of  heathens  and 
Jews  in  one  religious  community ;  but  what  is  affirm- 
ed of  this  one  part  is  equally  true  of  the  whole.  True 
religion  had  always  been  hid  from  the  wisest  of  the 
heathens;  and  the  christian  religion,  which  was  then  the 
only  true  religion,  had  not  been  made  known  in  other 
ages  to  the  Jews,  as  it  was  then  to  the  Apostles ;  but 
Paul  knew  it,  and  he  proposed  to  make  all  men  see 
it.  I  preach  to  make  all  men  see.  We  allow,  the 
wisest  man  could  never  have  known  (for  his  life  would 
have  been  too  short,  and  his  faculties  too  much  con- 
fined) the  true  character  of  God  ;  but  we  affirm  God 
revealed,  that  is,  made  it  known  unto  the  Prophets 
and  Apostles  by  his  Spirit  \  and  these  Prophets  and 
Apostles  have  made  it  known  to  us  by  their  writings. 


When  I  affirm,  the  christian  religion  hath  no  mys- 
teries now,  I  do  not  mean  to  say  that  the  truths  and 
the  duties  of  Christianity  are  not  connected  with  other 
truths  and  other  exercises,  which  surpass  all  our 
comprehension  ;  but  I  affirm,  that  the  knowledge  of 
the  incomprehensible  parts,  and  the  belief  of  what 
people  please  to  conjecture  about  them,  though  they 
may  be  parts  of  our  amusement,  and  perhaps  im- 
provement, are  yet  no  parts  of  that  religion  which 
God  requires  of  us  under  pain  of  his  displeasure. 
Suppose  I  were  to  affirm,  there  is  no  secret  in  mow- 
ing grass,  and  in  making,  stacking,  and  using  hay  ; 
all  this  would  be  very  true  ;  and  should  any  one  deny 
this,  and  question  me  about  the  manner  in  which  one 
little  seed  produces  clover,  another  trefoil,  a  third 
rye-grass,  and  concerning  the  manner  how  all  these 
convey  strength  and  spirit  to  horses,  and  milk  to  cows, 
and  fat  to  oxen  in  the  winter  ;  I  would  reply,  all 
this  is  philosophy  ;  nothing  of  this  is  necessary  to 
mowing,  and  making,  and  using  hay.  I  sanctify 
this  thought  by  applying  it  to  religion.  Every  good 
work  produces  present  pleasure  and  future  reward  ; 
to  perforin  the  work,  and  to  hope  for  the  reward 
from  the  known  character  of  the  Great  Master  we 
serve,  is  religion ;  and  all  before  and  after  is  only 
connected  with  it. 

What  part  of  the  christian  religion  is  a  mystery  f 
Divide  the  whole  into  the  three  natural  parts,  of  plan, 
progress,  and  execution  :  the  first  was  before  this 
j  owofli  fi  ebam  xjA 


world  began  ;  the  last  will  be  after  this  world  shall 
end  ;  the  middle  partis  before  us  now.  There  is  no 
secret  in  either  of  these  parts  ;  but  there  are  incom- 
prehensible mysteries  connected  with  each  of  them. 
In  regard  to  the  first,  it  is  impossible  to  be  supposed, 
by  a  man  who  knows  any  thing  of  God,  that  the 
christian  religion  came  into  the  world  without  the 
Creator's  knowing  that  such  an  event  would  take 
place  ;  and  it  is  impossible  for  such  a  man  to  imag- 
ine that,  after  the  present  life,  there  will  be  no  dis- 
tinction made  between  the  righteous  and  the  wicked. 
There  is  no  mystery  in  these  general  principles ;  but 
we  may  render  them  extremely  perplexed  by  rashly 
agitating  questions  connected  with  them. 

In  regard  to  Christianity  in  this  present  life,  every 
thing  in  it  is  exceeding  plain.  Is  the  character  of 
Jesus  Christ  a  secret  ?  Did  ever  any  body  take  him 
for  an  idle  gentleman,  a  cruel  tyrant,  a  deceitful 
tradesman,  a  man  of  gross  ignorance  and  turbulent 
passions  ?  On  the  contrary,  is  it  not  perfectly  clear 
that  he  was  the  person  foretold  by  the  Prophets 
of  his  country,  who  should  come,  himself  per- 
fectly wise  and  good,  to  instruct  mankind  in  the 
knowledge  and  worship  of  God  ?  Is  the  char- 
acter of  Scripture  a  secret  ?  Is  it  not  perfectly 
clear,  that  it  is  a  wise  and  good  book,  full  of 
information  on  all  the  subjects  that  concern  reli- 
gion and  morality  ?  Is  it  a  secret  that  we  are 
mortal  and  must  die  ;  or  that  we  are  depraved,  and 


apt  to  live  in  the  omission  of  duty  and  the  practice  of 
sin  ;  or  that  a  life  of  sin  is  connected  with  a  course  of 
misery,  for  pursuing  which  we  deserve  blame  ?  Is  it 
a  secret  whether  God  takes  notice  of  the  actions  of 
men,  or  whether  he  will  forgive  a  penitent  and  pun- 
ish the  impenitent  ?  In  a  word,  is  the  character  of  God 
a  secret  in  the  christian  religion  ;  and  is  it  a  myste- 
ry whether  he  be  an  object  worthy  of  our  adoration 
and  imitation  ?  Were  I  obliged  to  give  a  short  ac- 
count of  the  christian  religion,  I  would  not  say  it  is  a 
revelation  of  the  decrees  of  God,  or  a  revelation  of 
the  resurrection  of  the  dead,  or  a  revelation  of  the 
mercy  of  God  to  a  repenting  sinner  through  the  mer- 
it of  Jesus  Christ ;  for  though  each  of  these  be  true, 
yet  all  these  are  only  parts  of  his  ways  ;  but  I  would 
call  Christianity  a  revelation,  or  a  making  known  of 
the  true  and  real  character  of  God  ;  and  I  would  af- 
firm of  the  whole,  and  of  each  component  part,  that 
it  was  so  made  known  as  to  be  free  from  all  mystery, 
in  regard  to  the  truth  of  the  facts,  and  yet  so  connected 
as  to  contain  mysteries  beyond  the  comprehension  of 
finite  minds.  I  would  affirm  further,  that  our  relig- 
ion is  confined  to  the  belief  and  practice  of  only 
what  is  revealed,  and  that  every  thing  untold  is  a 
matter  of  conjecture,  and  no  part  of  piety  towards 
God  and  benevolence  to  mankind. 

Take   heart,  then,   my  good   brethren ;  you  may 
understand,  practise,  and   enjoy  all  this  rich   gift  of 
God  to  man,  just  as  you  enjoy  the  light  of  the  day, 



and  refreshment  by  rest  at  night.  Let  no  one  say,  I 
was  born  in  poverty,  I  have  had  no  learning,  I  have 
no  friends,  my  days  are  spent  in  labour,  and  I  have 
no  prospect  except  that  of  drawing  my  last  breath 
where  I  drew  my  first.  All  this  may  be  true  ;  but 
all  this  will  not  prevent  your  knowing,  and  practising, 
and  enjoying  the  christian  religion,  the  founder  of 
which  had  not  what  the  birds  of  the  air  have,  where 
to  lay  his  head. 

When  I  say  all  may  understand  it,  1  mean  if  their 
own  depravity  does  not  prevent  it.  Plainly,  you  can- 
not know  it  if  you  do  not  attend  to  it ;  nor  can  you 
know  it,  though  you  do  attend,  if  you  do  not  attend 
to  Christianity  itself,  but  to  something  else  put  instead 
of  it.     Let  me  explain  myself. 

One  says,  I  cannot  understand  the  nature  and  force 
of  religion  ;  and  pray,  is  there  any  thing  wonderful 
in  your  ignorance  ?  Consider,  you  never  read  the 
Scriptures  ;  you  never  ask  any  body  to  read  them  to 
you  ;  you  hate  and  persecute  good  men  ;  you  sel- 
dom enter  a  place  of  worship ;  you  keep  wicked 
company  like  yourself;  you  are  often  seen  in  the 
practice  of  enormous  crimes.  Are  you  the  man  to 
complain,  I  cannot  understand  religion?  It  would 
be  a  mystery  indeed,  if  a  man  who  never  turned  his 
attention  to  a  subject,  should  know  any  thing  certain 
about  it.  We  have  no  such  mystery  in  all  the  chris- 
tian religion.     Christians  do  not  live  like  you. 


Another  says,  I  am  a  very  sober  man,  I  go  con- 
stantly to  a  place  of  worship,  and  I  cannot  compre- 
hend the  christian  religion.  All  this  is  very  true ; 
you  are  a  sober,  decent  character,  and  regular  in 
your  attendance  on  public  worship ;  but  recollect,  I 
am  speaking  not  of  your  body,  but  of  your  mind. 
Now,  it  is  a  fact,  abroad  or  at  home,  in  the  church 
or  in  the  barn,  your  attention  is  always  taken  up 
with  other  things,  and  so  taken  up  as  to  leave  no 
room  for  the  things  which  belong  unto  your  everlasting 
peace.  Sometimes  your  corn,  sometimes  your  cattle, 
sometimes  taxes  and  rates,  and  sometimes  your  rent 
and  your  servants'  wages  ;  but,  at  all  times,  to  live  in 
this  present  world,  engrosses  all  your  attention.  You, 
you  resemble  yon  child  fast  asleep,  without  knowing 
it,  in  the  arms  of  a  parent.  God  besets  you  behind 
and  before,  and  lays  his  hand  upon  you.  It  is  he 
that  watereth  the  ridges  of  your  com,  and  settleth 
the  furrows  thereof ;  he  maketh  the  earth  soft  with 
showers ;  he  clothes  thy  pastures  with  flocks,  and 
crowns  the  year  with  his  goodness.  It  is  he  that 
giveth  thee  power  to  get  wealth,  and  multiplieth  thy 
herds  and  thy  flocks,  and  thy  silver  and  thy  gold, 
and  all  that  thou  hast.  And  you,  inattentive  man  ! 
you  cannot  comprehend  that  you  are  under  an  obli- 
gation to  know  and  do  the  will  of  this  generous  bene- 
factor. What  does  Christianity  require  of  you,  but  to 
love  and  serve  this  God  ?  If  you  do  not  serve  him, 
it  is  because  you  do  not  love  him  ;  if  you  do  not  love 


him,  it  is  because  you  do  not  know  him  ;  and  if  you 
do  not  know  him,  it  is  not  for  the  want  of  evidence, 
but  attention. 

It  is  not  only  to  you  that  I  affirm  this  connexion 
between  attention  and  knowledge  ;  for  if  this  barn 
were  filled  with  statesmen  and  scholars,  generals  and 
kings,  I  should  be  allowed  to  say  to  one,  Sir,  you 
understand  intrigue;  to  another,  Sir,  you  understand 
war,  to  besiege  a  town,  and  rout  an  army  ;  to  a  third, 
Sir,  you  understand  law,  and  every  branch  of  the 
office  of  a  conservator  of  the  peace  ;  to  another,  Sir, 
you  understand  languages  and  arts  and  sciences  ;  and 
you  all  understand  all  these,  because  you  have  stud- 
ied them  ;  but  here  are  two  things  which  you  have 
not  studied,  and  which  therefore  you  do  not  know  ; 
the  one,  how  to  plough,  and  sow,  and  reap,  and 
thresh  an  acre  of  wheat ;  and  the  other,  how  to  live 
holily  in  this  world,  so  as  to  live  happily  in  the  world 
to  come.  Are  you  not  convinced,  my  good  brethren, 
that  the  same  circumstance,  which  prevents  those 
gentlemen  from  knowing  how  to  perform  the  work 
that  you  perform  every  day  with  pleasure,  prevents 
von  from  knowing  the  practice  and  the  pleasure  of 
true  Christianity  ?  In  both  cases  the  subject  hath  not 
been  attended  to. 

I  go  further,  and  venture  to  affirm,  if  religion 
could  be  understood  without  attention,  it  would  be  a 
misfortune  ;  a  misfortune  depriving  us  of  many  ad- 
vantages  and    leading   us   to  commit  many   crimes, 



The  ease  with  which  we  acquired  knowledge  would 
sink  the  value  of  it,  and  darkness  would  have  com- 
munion with  light. 

As  attention  is  absolutely  necessary,  so  it  is  equal- 
ly necessary  that  attention  should  be  fixed  upon  the 
christian  religion  itself,  and  nothing  else.  We  hear 
often  of  the  mysteries  of  religion ;  let  us  not  forget 
that  there  are  mysteries  of  iniquity.  Ignorance, 
covetousness,  tyranny,  especially  tyranny  over  con- 
science, all  wrap  themselves  in  mystery  ;  but  if  we 
incorporate  any  of  these  mysteries  with  the  christian 
religion,  and  attend  to  them,  instead  of  distinguishing 
and  attending  to  pure  Christianity,  we  may  attend 
and  study,  but  we  shall  never  know ;  we  shall  be 
ever  learning,  and  never  able  to  come  to  the  knowl- 
edge of  the  truth.  The  doctrine,  manner  of  life,  pur- 
pose, faith,  longsuffering,  charity,  patience,  persecu- 
tions, afflictions,  and  deliverances  of  the  Apostle 
Paul,  were  fully  known,  and  diligently  followed  by 
common  christians ;  but  who  ever  knew  the  doctrine 
of  transubstantiation,  or  that  of  the  infallibility  of  a 
frail,  sinful  man  ?  Who  of  us,  uninspired  men, 
knows  the  feelings  of  a  person  under  the  immediate 
influence  of  the  Holy  Ghost?  In  vain  we  pursue 
such  mysteries  as  these  ;  the  stronger  the  attention, 
the  greater  the  mortification  of  not  being  able  to  suc- 
ceed. If  one  place  religion  in  impulses,  another  in 
new  revelations,  a  third  in  a  state  of  perfection,  a 
fourth  in  discoveries  and  enjoyments  inconsistent 


with  our  present  state,  and  not  set  before  us  in  the 
christian  religion,  they  may  well  be  filled  with  doubts 
and  fears,  and  spend  life  in  complaining  of  the  crook- 
ed and  dreary  paths  of  religion.  If,  on  the  contrary, 
we  attend  only  to  what  is  revealed,  to  believe  only 
wThat  is  reported  with  sufficient  evidence,  to  practise 
only  what  is  commanded  by  the  undoubted  voice  of 
God  ;  if  we  seek  only  such  pleasures  and  distinctions 
as  we  are  taught  in  Scripture  to  expect ;  in  a  word, 
if  we  wTould  acquaint  ourselves  only  with  God,  and 
be  at  peace  one  with  another,  thereby  good  should 
come  unto  us. 

When  I  said,  all  of  you  might  understand  Christi- 
anity, I  meant,  there  was  nothing  in  Christianity  but 
what  might  be  understood  if  it  were  properly  attend- 
ed to,  and  nothing  in  the  natural  condition  of  any 
individual  (I  do  not  say  his  moral  state)  to  prevent 
his  attending  to  it.  There  is  no  capacity  so  mean, 
no  creature  so  forlorn,  as  to  be  beyond  the  reach  of 
the  benefits  conferred  upon  men  by  Jesus  Christ. 
You  are  a  babe;  in  his  Gospel  there  is  milk  for  babes; 
truths  adapted  to  nourish  and  cherish  a  little,  feeble 
mind.  You  are  poor ;  the  poor  have  the  Gospel 
preached  to  them  ;  the  glad  tidings  of  a  Redeemer, 
and  all  his  benefits.  You  are  unlearned  ;  but  the 
highway  of  holiness  is  so  plain,  that  a  ivayfaring  man, 
though  a  fool,  shall  not  err  therein.  You  are  so 
bashful,  and  so  unused  to  company,  that  you  are 
necessarily  deprived  of  the  pleasure  of  the  company 


and  conversation  of  good  men  ;  but  you  have  better 
company  than  that  of  good  men  ;  and  you,  you  poor 
shepherd,  you  will  behold  the  heavens,  the  work  of  the 
fingers  of  your  God ;  you  will  consider  the  moon  and 
the  stars,  and  the  Saviour  and  the  heaven  which  he 
hath  ordained,  till  you  cry  out,  What  is  man,  that 
thou  art  mindful  of  him,  and  the  son  of  man  that  thou 
visitest  him  ?  And  upon  these  subjects  the  tongue 
of  the  stammerer  shall  be  ready  to  speak  eloquently  I 
The  christian  religion  enlarges  and  ennobles  the 
mind,  purifies  and  refines  the  heart,  and  adorns  the 
life  ;  and  a  christian  labourer,  exercising  his  own  un- 
derstanding, is  a  more  beautiful  sight  than  an  unjust 
judge  in  all  the  pomp  of  his  office. 



Afterward  shall   the  children  of  Israel  fear  the  Lord  and 
his  goodness  in  the  latter  days.     Hosea,  iii.  5. 

Always  when  I  see  a  Jew,  I  recollect  a  saying  of 
the  Lord  by  the  prophet  Isaiah,  thou  art  the  seed  of 
Abraham,  my  friend  ;  and  I  find  a  thousand  thoughts 
in  my  mind,  impelling  me  to  my  duty.  I  am  going 
this  morning  just  to  give  you  a  sketch  of  a  subject, 
that  would  fill  volumes,  and  a  subject  of  which  we 
ought  not  to  be  ignorant. 

First,  let  us  inform  ourselves  of  the  general  history 
of  this  people.  The  father  of  the  family  was  Abra- 
ham. He  was  born  in  the  East,  of  an  idolatrous 
family,  and,  at  the  command  of  God,  he  became  the 
first  dissenter  in  the  world.  He  quitted  his  country, 
and  went  and  set  up  the  worship  of  one  God  in  his 
own  family,  and  taught  them  to  practise  it.  From 
this  man  proceeded  a  family,  which  increased  into 
tribes,  and  formed  a  people  as  the  stars  in  the  heav- 
en, or  the  sand  on  the  seashore  for  multitude.  Idol- 
atry and  immorality  sometimes  infected  a  few ;  but 

the  jews.  177 

the  bulk  preserved  the  belief  of  one  God,  and  the 
imitation  of  his  perfections,  inviolably  for  ages.  They 
were  shepherds,  and  lived,  imbosomed  in  forests  and 
fastnesses,  a  plain,  frugal,  laborious  life,  unacquainted 
with  the  world,  and  unpractised  in  the  arts  and  luxu- 
ries of  polished  nations.  They  assembled  to  wor- 
ship God  by  prayer  and  sacrifice  at  every  new  moon, 
where  the  old  heads  of  families  taught  morality,  and 
inculcated  the  hope  excited  by  the  promise  of  God, 
that  in  one  of  their  family,  all  the  families  of  the 
earth  should  be  blessed  with  the  knowledge  of  their 
God  and  their  morality.  Thus  read  the  book  of 
Genesis,  and  other  scripture  histories  of  the  same 
times,  and  without  forming  any  romantic  ideas  of  imi- 
tation, impossible  except  in  their  circumstances,  ad- 
mire the  history,  approve  the  prophecy,  and  copy  the 
inoffensive  purity  of  their  lives. 

When  these  people  were  in  slavery  in  Egypt,  they 
were  at  a  school  in  which  Providence  taught  them,  by 
their  own  feelings,  the  nature  and  the  worth  of  liber- 
ty, both  civil  and  religious.  What  noble  efforts  they 
made  to  obtain  it,  and  how  God  crowned  their  hon- 
est endeavours  with  success  under  the  direction  of 
Moses,  Joshua,  and  the  Judges,  you  will  read  in  the 
four  books  of  Moses,  Joshua,  Judges,  and  Ruth. 
When  they  changed  their  government  into  an  absolute 
monarchy,  they  enslaved  themselves,  and  overwhelm- 
ed their  country  with  idolatry,  immorality,  and  ca- 
lamities of  every  kind.     Read   the   prophecies  with 

178  THE    JEW?. 

the  light  of  history  of  times,  persons,  and  plaees, 
which  is  contained  in  Samuel,  Kings,  Chronicles, 
Ezra,  Nehemiah,  and  Esther,  and  you  will  easily  dis- 
cover what  religion  had  to  ohject  against  a  tyrannical 
government,  an  idolatrous  worship,  and  dissolute  man- 
ners ;  and  what  it  had  to  do  in  bearing  affliction,  re- 
forming worship,  and  cherishing  hope  of  better  times 
under  the  direction  of  the  expected  Prince  of  the 
house  of  David. 

When  he  came,  and  addressed  himself  to  the 
blessing  of  all  nations  with  an  universal  religion,  some 
of  his  countrymen  put  him  to  death ;  but  others 
espoused  his  cause,  wrote  his  history,  and  reasoned 
to  establish  it,  not  in  the  form  of  a  secular  kingdom, 
but  in  the  convictions  and  consciences  of  reasonable 
men.  There  it  hath  stood  ever  since  ;  and,  though 
the  bulk  of  the  Jews  have  been  scattered  and  punish- 
ed for  crucifying  Christ,  yet  by  being  kept  a  separate 
people,  they  serve  to  prove  the  truth  of  the  Gospel ; 
and  the  text,  with  many  others  like  it,  promises  that 
they  shall  reverence  the  Lord  in  the  latter  dap. 
The  Epistle  to  the  Hebrews  lies  ready  for  their  use 
at  that  day.  I  think  nothing  can  be  easier  than  to 
apply  this  historical  knowledge  to  its  proper  use  ; 
and  yet  some  christians  have  got  such  an  unwise  and 
wayward  knack  of  reasoning,  as  to  quote  whatever 
was  among  the  Jews  in  proof  of  what  ought  to  be 
now;  as  if  the  economy  that  crucified  Christ  was  to 
restore  him  his  character  and  dignity  ! 

the  jews.  J 79 

Remark  next  the  customs  of  this  people.  They 
serve,  as  their  history  does,  to  interpret  Scripture. 
Our  text  is  connected  with  one.  A  part  of  this  pro- 
phecy is  a  drama.  I  will  try  to  make  you  understand 
me.  A  drama,  in  our  present  view,  is  a  subject  both 
related  and  represented.  Divines  call  it  preaching 
by  signs.  These  signs  were  proper  to  represent  to 
the  eye  the  subject  spoken  of  to  the  ear.  Thus 
Jeremiah  explained  slavery  with  a  yoke  upon  his 
neck  ;  and  Jesus  simplicity,  by  setting  a  little  child 
before  his  disciples.  *  *  *         *         * 

Further,  let  us  allow  the  merit  of  the  Jews.  They 
deserve  all  the  reputation,  which  the  inspired  writers 
give  them.  They  exhibit  single  characters  of  con- 
summate virtue,  as  Abraham  for  faith,  Moses  for 
meeknes,  Nehemiah  for  love  of  his  country,  and  so  on. 
As  a  nation  they  excelled  in  some  periods  in  arms, 
in  others  in  industry,  commerce,  splendour,  and 
wealth  ;  and  in  all  in  good  writers  ;  for  what  histo- 
rians are  equal  to  Moses  and  the  evangelists,  or  what 
ancient  poetry  breathes  such  pure  and  sublime  senti- 
ments as  that  of  the  Jews  ?  As  a  church  they  pre- 
served the  oracles  of  God,  and  at  their  fall  their 
remnants  became  the  riches  of  the  world.  The 
Apostle  of  us  Gentiles  was  a  Jew,  and  to  say  all  in 
one  word,  the  Saviour  and  the  Judge  of  mankind  was 
a  Jew.  Let  us  respect  the  ancient  Jews  in  the  per- 
sons of  their  children,  and  for  their  sakes  let  us  be 
friends  to  universal  toleration. 

180  THE  JEWS. 

Let  us  recollect  the  sins  and  the  calamities  of 
these  people.  Their  sins  were  many  and  enormous  ; 
but  it  was  the  killing  of  Jesus  Christ,  that  completed 
their  ruin.  Let  us  examine  what  sins  brought  Jesus 
to  the  cross,  and  let  us  avoid  the  practice  of  them. 
Nor  let  us  forget  their  calamities.  They  have  been 
under  all  the  punishments  foretold  four  thousand 
years  ago  by  Moses,  and  seem  doomed  to  travel  over 
the  world  to  recommend  a  Gospel  which  they  reject 
and  despise.  Their  prophets,  we  find,  did  not 
slander  them ;  they  are  the  people  described,  and 
their  punishments  prove  the  divine  mission  of  their 
prophets.  Thus  God  is  glorified,  whether  man  be 
lost  or  saved.  In  some  future  time  he  will  be  glo- 
rified in  us,  either  his  mercy  if  we  embrace  it,  or  his 
justice  if  we  reject  it ;  for  to  reject  the  Gospel  is  to 
reject  both  the  mercy  and  the  justice  of  God. 

Let  us  finish  by  observing  the  recall  of  the  Jews. 
The  prophets  foretel  it,  and  a  course  of  events  ren- 
ders it  probable.  They  are  preserved  a  distinct  peo- 
ple, though  the  nations  that  conquered  them  are  lost. 
They  are  more  numerous  now  than  they  were  when 
a  nation.  The  Gospel  is  truth  and  virtue  struggling 
against  error  and  vice  ;  it  is  natural  to  hope  that 
the  stronger  must  in  time  subdue  the  weaker.  Er- 
ror and  vice  are  supported  by  man  ;  but  truth  and 
virtue  by  God.  Let  us  not  despair.  The  Jews 
came  out  of  Egypt  under  the  conduct  of  a  shepherd 
with  only  a  rod  in  his  hand  to  point  out  the   way. 

THE  JEWS.  181 

Providence  is  at  no  loss  for  means  to  effect  its  pur- 
poses ;  he  worketh  all  things  after  the  counsel  of  his 
oivn  will. 

There  are  four  things  implied  in  the  text,  which 
the  Jews  will  reverence  in  the  latter  days.  First, 
That  divine  patience,  which  hore  with  their  provoca- 
tions ;  after  they  have  rejected  Moses  and  the  Pro- 
phets, after  they  have  committed  crimes  of  every 
sort,  after  they  have  crucified  Christ,  persecuted  his 
Apostles,  and  persevered  for  ages  in  approving  the 
crime  ;  afterward  shall  the  children  of  Israel  rever- 
ence the  Lord  for  his  patience,  which  outlasted  all 
their  perverseness. 

Next,  they  will  reverence  his  providence,  which, 
when  they  were  persecuted  in  one  country,  always 
provided  them  an  asylum  in  another.  Providence 
hath  given  them  skill,  and  made  them  useful  to  many 
nations.  It  hath  prospered  their  industry,  and 
crowned  it  with  plenty,  so  that  their  riches  are  almost 
as  proverbial  as  their  infidelity.  When  Jews  from  all 
countries,  in  their  latter  days,  shall  compile  their  own 
history  of  the  dispersion,  it  must  needs  display  a 
bright  scene  of  providence,  which  they  themselves 
will  reverence  in  those  days. 

Will  they  not  always  reverence  the  grace  of  God  ? 
The  Lord  will  both  forgive  their  offences,  and  restore 
them  to  favour.  To  this  we  add,  the  glory  of  God, 
as  another  object  of  reverence.  Great  and  marvel- 
lous displays  of  divine  power  have  been  made  in 



favour  of  this  people  formerly,  and,  it  should  seem 
by  the  prophecies,  more  such  displays  will  be  made 
in  favour  of  them  at  their  return  to  their  first  hus- 
band.    May  God  hasten  it  in  his  time. 

What  remains  ?  Only  this  at  present.  Let  us 
avoid  putting  stumblingblocks  in  the  way  of  the 
Jews.  Let  us  propose  Christianity  to  them  as  Jesus 
proposed  it  to  them.  Instead  of  the  modern  magic 
of  scholastical  divinity,  let  us  lay  before  them  their 
own  prophecies.  Let  us  show  them  their  accom- 
plishment in  Jesus.  Let  us  applaud  their  hatred  of 
idolatry.  Let  us  show  them  the  morality  of  Jesus  in 
our  lives  and  tempers.  Let  us  never  abridge  their 
civil  liberty,  nor  ever  try  to  force  their  consciences. 
Let  us  remind  them,  that  as  Jews  they  are  bound  to 
make  the  law  of  Moses  the  rule  of  their  actions.  Let 
us  try  to  inspire  them  with  suspicion  of  rabbinical 
and  received  traditions,  and  a  generous  love  of  inves- 
tigating religious  truth  for  themselves.  Let  us  avoid 
all  rash  judging,  and  leave  their  future  state  to  God. 
Read  at  your  leisure  the  sixty-third  chapter  of  Isaiah, 
in  the  beginning  of  which  Jesus  Christ  is  described  as 
the  Judge  of  the  world,  and  the  passage  is  explained 
in  that  sense  in  the  Revelation  of  John.  It  is  the 
judge  alone,  whose  habit  is  stained  with  blood ;  the 
saints,  white  and  clean,  only  follow  him  to  behold  and 
applaud  his  justice. 






Few  particulars  have  as  yet  been  presented  to  the 
public  concerning  the  long,  and  somewhat  varied  life 
of  Thomas  Cogan.  He  was  born  in  the  year  1736, 
at  Rowell,in  Northamptonshire,  and  was  a  descendant 
of  an  old  and  respectable  family  in  that  place,  long 
devoted  to  the  religious  interests  of  the  dissenters. 
His  father  was  an  apothecary,  a  man  of  repute  in  his 
profession,  and  respected  for  his  good  character  and 
valuable  qualities.  To  literature  and  books  he  was 
much  inclined,  and  had  a  particular  fondness  for  me- 
taphysical inquiries.  A  few  pamphlets  on  some  of 
the  abstruser  topics  of  mental  philosophy,  published 
at  different  times,  prove  the  extent  of  his  researches, 
and  the  industry  and  zeal  with  which  he  pursued 

With  these  propensities  in  the  father,  it  is  to  be 
supposed  that  he  would  feel  a  lively  interest  in  the 
education  of  his  son.  After  being  initiated  into  some 
of  the  simpler  rudiments  of  learning,  young  Cogan 
was  sent  to  Kibworth,  in  Leicestershire,  and  put  un- 

18G  COGAN. 

der  the  charge  of  Dr  Aikin,  the  father  of  Mrs  Bai- 
bauld,  who  at  that  time  enjoyed  a  high  reputation  as 
a  teacher.  Dr  Aikin  had  been  a  pupil  of  Doddridge, 
and  afterwards  an  assistant  in  the  Theological  School 
of  this  eminent  divine  ;  and  as  a  scholar  of  refined 
taste,  and  extensive  acquisitions,  he  sustained  an  ele- 
vated rank.  For  several  years  he  was  professor  at 
Warrington  Academy,  in  conjunction  with  Dr  Enfield 
and  Dr  Taylor,  and  his  lectures  on  the  ancient  clas- 
sics and  on  theology  have  been  applauded  by  his  sur- 
viving pupils.  Gilbert  Wakefield,  in  the  memoirs  of 
his  own  life,  has  paid  an  elegant  and  feeling  tribute 
to  the  talents  and  virtues  of  Dr  Aikin.*  Under  the 
instructions  of  this  able  teacher  and  excellent  man, 
Cogan  made  rapid  proficiency  in  the  branches  of 
learning  to  which  he  applied  himself,  and  he  was  ever 
after  accustomed  to  speak  with  delight  of  the  days  he 
had  passed  at  Kibworth. 

At  this  school  he  remained  till  he  was  fourteen 
years  of  age,  when  he  returned  to  his  father's  house, 
and  continued  at  home  during  the  two  or  three  suc- 
ceeding years.  About  this  time  he  began  to  think  of 
preparing  himself  for  the  christian  ministry,  and  with 
the  design  of  prosecuting  a  course  of  theological  stu- 
dies he  entered  the  Academy  at  Mile  End,  where  Dr 
Conder  was  teacher  in  divinity.  For  some  reason, 
however,  growing  out  of  the  management  of  the  insti- 

*  Memoirs  of  the  Life  of  Gilbert  Wakefield,  B.  A.  formerly  Fellow 
of  Jesus  College,  Cambridge.    Written  by  Himself.    Vol.  I.  chap.  X! 

COGAN.  187 

tution,  Cogan  soon  became  dissatisfied,  and  removed 
to  Hoxton  Academy. 

How  long  he  remained  in  this  seminary,  or  at  what 
time  he  entered  the  ministerial  office,  is  not  known. 
In  the  year  1759  we  find  him  preaching  in  Holland, 
and  it  is  supposed,  that  he  acted  as  an  assistant 
preacher  with  Mr  Snowden  at  Rotterdam,  who  was 
minister  of  an  English  church  founded  there  on  the 
principles  of  the  Dutch  establishment. 

This  station,  however,  he  did  not  retain  long,  for 
in  1762  he  had  returned  to  his  own  country,  and  was 
settled  over  a  congregation  in  Southampton.  What 
length  of  time  he  held  this  situation  is  uncertain,  but 
it  seems  that  difficulties  arose  between  him  and  the 
people  concerning  some  of  his  opinions,  which  ulti- 
mately induced  him  to  request  a  dismission.  By  his 
parents  he  had  been  taught  the  principles  of  Calvinism, 
but  his  subsequent  inquiries  shook  his  faith  in  the  higher 
dogmas  of  the  Genevan  creed,  and  he  was  too  ingen- 
uous to  conceal  his  opinions,  and  had  too  high  a  sense 
of  his  duty  not  to  preach  what  he  believed  to  be  im- 
portant truth.  Finding  the  views  of  his  congregation, 
in  regard  to  some  of  the  abstruser  points  of  doctrine, 
not  in  accordance  with  his  own,  and  perceiving  them 
troubled  with  suspicions  of  his  heresy,  he  followed 
what  he  thought  to  be  the  dictates  of  wisdom  and 
prudence,  as  well  as  of  integrity  and  christian  prin- 
ciple, in  desiring  to  be  released  from  the  pastoral 




Being  thus  freed  from  engagements  at  home,  he 
went  over  again  to  Holland,  where  he  filled  the  office 
of  colleague  with  a  clergyman  in  a  congregation  com- 
posed of  English  residents.  At  this  period  the  symp- 
toms of  a  pulmonary  complaint,  with  which  he  had 
been  long  slightly  affected,  began  to  exhibit  a  more 
alarming  aspect,  and  to  admonish  him  of  the  danger  to 
which  he  was  exposing  himself  by  the  exertions  re- 
quired in  public  speaking.  In  short,  so  much  were 
his  apprehensions  awakened  by  his  declining  health, 
that  he  felt  himself  compelled  to  abandon  a  profes- 
sion, which  he  had  chosen  with  a  profound  respect 
for  its  dignity,  and  sincere  love  of  its  duties,  and 
which  he  had  adorned  not  more  by  his  ministerial  la- 
bours and  instructions,  than  by  his  exemplary  deport- 
ment and  purity  of  life. 

In  looking  around  for  a  new  pursuit  congenial  with 
his  inclination,  and  suited  to  his  health,  and  one  which 
should  afford  him  an  honourable  calling,  his  thoughts 
were  turned  to  the  medical  profession.  After  his 
mind  had  become  settled  in  this  choice,  he  commenc- 
ed his  new  studies  with  a  zeal  and  devotedness,  which 
could  hardly  fail  to  ensure  him  success.  He  made  a 
short  visit  to  England,  where  he  gratified  his  friends 
by  preaching  a  few  discourses,  and  then  went  back  to 
Holland,  and  became  a  regularly  matriculated  student 
of  medicine  at  the  University  of  Ley  den. 

This  celebrated  institution  was  then  at  the  height 
of  its  renown,  standing   at  the  head  of  the  medical 

COGAN.  189 

schools  of  Europe,  and  Cogan  knew  how  to  estimate 
the  advantages  of  his  situation,  and  to  profit  by  the 
uncommon  facilities  which  it  afforded.  He  complet- 
ed the  usual  course  at  Leyden,  and,  when  he  took 
his  degree,  exhibited  a  Thesis  on  the  Influence  of  the 
Passions  in  causing  and  healing  Diseases.  This  dis- 
sertation was  the  basis  of  his  future  works  on  the 
Passions,  which  have  given  him  considerable  fame  as 
a  practical  metaphysician  and  ethical  philosopher. 

Being  thus  qualified  for  entering  on  his  profession, 
he  commenced  practice  in  Holland,  where  he  seems 
already  to  have  formed  an  extensive  acquaintance, 
and  contracted  intimate  friendships.  He  married  the 
daughter  of  a  wealthy  merchant  in  Amsterdam,  by 
the  name  of  Groen,  and  established  himself  for  a 
time  as  a  practising  physician  in  that  city.  Encou- 
raged by  his  growing  reputation,  however,  he  went 
over  to  London,  where  his  practice  became  so  exten- 
sive and  his  labours  so  burdensome,  that  he  found  his 
health  gradually  impaired,  and  he  yielded  again  to 
what  he  deemed  the  call  of  duty  in  relinquishing  the 
active  employments  of  his  profession.  In  1780  he 
went  to  Amsterdam,  where  he  devoted  himself  to  lit- 
erary and  philosophical  studies,  and  to  such  employ- 
ments as  were  suited  to  the  state  of  his  health,  and 
the  bias  of  his  inclination. 

During  his  residence  in  London,  Dr  Cogan  was  in- 
strumental in  establishing  the  Royal  Humane  Society, 
one  of  the  most  efficient  schemes  of  benevolence, 

190  COGAN. 

which  have  been  devised  for  the  relief  of  suffering 
humanity.  The  institution  may  indeed  be  said  to 
have  originated  with  him,  although  it  would  not  per- 
haps have  been  so  soon  carried  into  actual  operation, 
had  it  not  been  forced  onward  by  the  zeal  and  un- 
wearied exertions  of  his  friend  Dr  Hawes.  A  socie- 
ty was  formed  in  Amsterdam  in  1767,  the  object  of 
which  was  to  restore  to  life  those  who  were  apparent- 
ly dead  from  drowning.  The  frequent  accidents  in 
that  city,  where  water  conveyance  was  so  common, 
suggested  the  importance  of  such  an  association,  and 
premiums  were  offered  for  rescuing  persons,  who 
were  in  imminent  danger  of  being  drowned.  The 
society  was  successful  beyond  its  expectations,  and 
statements  of  its  proceedings  and  the  cases  of  recovery 
were  published.  These  were  translated  into  Eng- 
lish by  Dr  Cogan,  with  a  view  to  act  on  the  public 
mind  in  his  own  country,  and  especially  to  convince 
the  friends  of  humanity  in  London  of  the  utility  of 
such  an  association  in  that  metropolis. 

These  accounts  first  caught  the  attention  of  Dr 
Hawes,  who  applied  himself  to  the  subject  with  an 
enthusiasm  and  disinterestedness,  which  nothing  could 
conquer.  For  a  time  he  received  neither  sympathy 
nor  aid  from  the  public,  but  no  discouragement  could 
damp  the  ardour  with  which  he  was  moved  ;  he  was 
prodigal  to  profusion  of  every  personal  sacrifice  of 
property,  time,  and  labour.  His  project  was  ridicul- 
ed as  absurd  by  some,  and  rejected  as  impracticable 

COGAN.  191 

by  others.  For  a  whole  year  he  took  the  burden  on 
himself,  and  offered  rewards  for  bringing  drowned 
persons  to  certain  places,  where  means  would  be  im- 
mediately used  for  their  recovery.  The  practicabili- 
ty of  resuscitation  was  thus  proved  by  numerous 
examples,  and  his  success  was  such  as  to  silence  every 
voice.  After  these  testimonies,  the  force  of  which 
was  not  to  be  turned  aside  by  ridicule,  nor  speculative 
objections,  Dr  Cogan  and  Dr  Hawes  agreed  on  a 
time  and  place  at  which  they  would  assemble  a  cer- 
tain number  of  their  friends,  and  consult  on  the  proper 
measures  to  be  taken  for  establishing  a  society.  The 
result  was  the  formation  of  the  Royal  Humane  Socie- 
ty in  1774;  and,  to  give  an  adequate  conception  of 
the  utility  of  this  society,  it  is  enough  to  state,  that 
during  the  first  ten  years  after  it  was  formed,  no  less 
than  three  thousand  persons  in  the  city  of  London 
alone,  wrere  by  its  means  rescued  from  a  premature 

The  Reports  of  the  Society  for  the  first  six  years 
were  drawn  up  by  Dr  Cogan,  who  was  in  no  degree 
behind  his  ardent  coadjutor  in  zeal  and  assiduity.  He 
contrived  instruments  for  taking  drowned  persons 
quickly  and  uninjured  out  of  the  water,  and  suggest- 
ed various  improvements  in  the  methods  of  resuscita- 
tion. "  Whilst  he  lived,  Dr  Cogan  took  a  lively  in- 
terest in  the  proceedings  of  the  Society,  and,  when 
opportunity  permitted,  failed  not  to  attend  the  annual 
meetings,  where  he  of  all  others  must  have  been  grat- 

192  COGAN. 

ified  by  the  procession  of  the  persons  restored  to  life 
by  the  Society's  methods.  By  his  will  he  bequeath- 
ed to  his  favourite  institution  the  sum  of  one  hundred 
pounds.  The  Society,  as  has  been  justly  remarked, 
will  be  a  standing  monument  of  what  may  be  accom- 
plished by  individual  persevering  exertions  in  the 
cause  of  humanity  ;  and  will  transmit  the  names  of 
Hawes  and  Cogan  to  posterity  as  benefactors  of  the 
human  race."*  The  example  set  by  them  has  been 
followed  in  almost  all  parts  of  the  civilized  world,  and 
humane  societies  formed  on  a  similar  plan  now  exist 
in  many  of  the  large  cities  in  Europe  and  America. 

After  retiring  from  his  profession  in  London,  Dr 
Cogan  lived  a  studious  and  quiet  life  in  Holland  till 
the  French  revolution,  when  he  resolved  to  quit  the 
continent  and  take  up  his  final  residence  in  England. 
During  a  part  of  his  absence  he  had  passed  his  time 
in  travelling  over  Germany  and  the  Netherlands,  and 
had  made  notes  of  the  incidents  and  reflections  that  oc- 
curred to  him  in  his  wanderings.  When  he  returned 
to  England  he  revised  his  journal,  and  published  it  in 
a  work  consisting  of  two  volumes,  entitled  The  Rhine. 
This  work  is  praised  for  the  ease  and  simplicity  of  its 

*  See  a  short  Memoir  of  Dr  Cogan  in  the  Monthly  Repository,  Vol. 
XIV,  p.  1 — 5;  74 — 76.  To  this  article  I  am  chiefly  indebted  for  the 
facts  contained  in  the  present  brief  notice.  It  is  extremely  meagre, 
but  nothing  more  extended  or  full,  it  is  believed,  has  come  before 
the  public.  It  remains  for  some  future  biographer  to  do  justice  to 
the  memory  of  a  man,  who  has  claims  so  strong  on  the  gratitude  of 
his  species,  and  who  holds  no  humble  rank  among  the  wise,  the 
learned,  and  the  good. 

COGAN.  193 

style,  and  the  interesting  manner  in  which  the  narra- 
tive is  put  together. 

He  now  took  up  his  residence  at  Bath.  Here  his 
attention  was  turned  to  agriculture ;  he  made  ex- 
periments in  farming,  and  was  so  successful  as  to 
gain  several  premiums  from  an  Agricultural  Society 
to  which  he  belonged.  In  these  pursuits  it  seems  to 
have  been  his  chief  object  to  draw  off  his  mind  from 
severer  studies,  and  relax  himself  by  an  amusement, 
which  should  be  at  the  same  time  congenial  with  his 
taste,  and  afford  him  a  salutary  exercise  of  his  mental 
and  bodily  powers.  He  preserved  the  same  habits 
to  the  end  of  his  life ;  wherever  he  resided  he  took 
care  to  be  supplied  with  land  for  agricultural  experi- 
ments ;  and  when  he  afterwards  retired  to  lodgings 
in  London,  he  still  kept  a  farm  in  the  country  to 
which  he  frequently  resorted. 

While  residing  at  Bath  he  published  his  Philoso- 
phical and  Ethical  Treatises  on  the  Passions.  These 
were  received  with  approbation,  and  have  been  seve- 
ral times  republished.  At  the  same  place,  also,  the 
celebrated  Letters  to  Mr  Wilberforce  on  Hereditary 
Depravity  made  their  first  appearance.  So  popular 
was  this  pamphlet,  that  it  passed  speedily  through 
several  editions,  and  continues  still  to  be  often  re- 
published in  England.  It  may  be  doubted,  whether 
the  arguments  against  the  dark  scheme  of  Calvinism 
have  ever  been  stated  with  more  power  and  spirit,  or 
in  a  form  calculated  to  produce  a  more  thorough  con- 

194  COGAN. 

viction  of  the  false  foundation  on  which  this  system  is 
built.  The  letters  are  written  in  a  plain,  perspicuous 
st)rle,  the  reasoning  is  clear  and  direct,  and  the  tem- 
per of  the  writer  and  tone  of  his  sentiments  afford  an 
admirable  illustration  of  the  principles  of  benevolence, 
and  christian  love,  for  which  he  proves  himself  so 
powerful  an  advocate. 

Next  in  succession  were  his  Theological  Disqui- 
sitions, in  two  volumes,  embracing  a  view  of  the 
Jewish  Dispensation,  and  of  Christianity.  These  are 
made  to  harmonize  with  his  previous  Ethical  Trea- 
tises, and  are  intended  with  them  to  constitute  a 
general  system  of  morals  and  religion,  as  manifested 
in  the  character  of  the  Deity,  the  nature  of  man,  and 
the  truths  of  revelation.  But  his  Theological  Dis- 
quisitions contain  little  that  is  original  or  striking  ; 
they  are  diffuse  in  style,  and  abound  in  repetitions  of 
the  same  thoughts  ;  and  although  the  author's  be- 
nevolent spirit  shines  out  in  every  part,  and  some 
judicious  reflections  are  scattered  here  and  there,  yet 
these  volumes  must  be  allowed  to  be  the  least  satis- 
factory and  interesting  of  all  his  writings.  Dr  Co- 
gan's  last  work,  the  Ethical  Questions,  appeared  in 
1817,  and  treats  chiefly  of  metaphysical  subjects. 
He  published  other  works  during  his  lifetime,  an 
entire  catalogue  of  which  may  be  seen  in  the  article 
referred  to  above  in  the  Monthly  Repository. 

The  author's  latter  years  were  mostly  passed  in 
London,  although,  as  before  remarked,  he  occasion- 


COGAN.  195 

ally  retreated  to  his  little  farm  in  the  country.  He 
enjoyed  his  usual  health,  till  a  month  before  his 
death,  when  he  took  a  sudden  cold  by  exposure  to  a 
damp  atmosphere,  and  was  seized  with  an  indisposi- 
tion which  never  left  him.  For  a  week  or  two, 
however,  he  was  able  to  be  abroad,  and  went  to  his 
brother's  house  at  Walthamstow,  with  a  presentiment 
that  he  should  never  return.  From  that  time  he 
declined  gradually,  and  expired  on  the  2d  of  Febru- 
ary, ISIS,  in  the  eighty-second  year  of  his  age.  His 
mind  continued  sound  and  active  to  the  last ;  he  was 
cheerful  and  tranquil,  recounted  with  expressions  of 
gratitude  the  blessings  with  which  his  past  life  had 
been  filled  up,  talked  much  of  the  necessity  and 
benefits  of  death  in  the  wise  scheme  of  Providence, 
and  declared  his  entire  readiness  to  meet  the  will  of 
God  in  submitting  to  the  great  change  of  death,  and 
to  resign  his  spirit  to  that  mercy  and  goodness,  which 
had  through  a  life  of  many  years  protected  and  bless- 
ed him. 

The  habitual  frame  of  mind,  which  he  cherished 
on  this  subject,  may  be  learned  from  a  short  paragraph, 
which  was  found  in  manuscript  among  his  papers, 
and  was  intended  as  the  concluding  part  of  the  pre- 
face to  a  new  edition  of  his  treatise  on  the  Christian 
Dispensation.  "Before  this  edition  will  see  the 
light,"  says  he,  "  it  is  probable  that  the  eyes  of  the 
author  will  be  closed  in  darkness.  Should  this  be 
the  case,  the  following  declaration  may  excite  some 

196  cogan. 

attention  to  it.  Its  principles  have  afforded  him 
much  consolation  during  a  large  portion  of  life  ;  they 
have  rendered  advanced  years  placid  and  serene, 
and  enabled  him  to  contemplate  death  itself,  notwith- 
standing its  gloomy  appearance,  as  one  of  the  most 
essential  blessings  in  the  whole  plan  of  Providence." 
No  man  could  have  better  grounds  for  contemplating 
death  with  security  and  composure  than  Dr  Cogan ; 
his  life  had  been  without  reproach  ;  he  was  pious 
and  charitable,  benevolent  and  humane  ;  in  thought 
and  action  he  was  moved  by  the  genuine  spirit  of 
Christianity  ;  he  loved  God,  and  praised  him  habitu- 
ally for  his  goodness  ;  he  loved  man,  and  laboured  for 
nothing  so  much  as  the  moral  improvement  and  hap- 
piness of  his  fellow-creatures. 




The  design  of  Dr  Cogan  in  the  connected  series 
of  disquisitions,  which  he  gave  to  the  world,  was,  as 
he  expresses  it,  "  to  trace  the  moral  history  of  man 
in  his  pursuits,  powers,  and  motives  of  action  ;  and 
the  means  of  obtaining  permanent  wellbeing  and  hap- 
piness." He  begins,  very  wisely,  with  a  careful 
analysis  of  the  passions  and  affections ;  from  the 
proper  exercise  of  which  he  supposes  all  happiness 
to  be  derived,  and  in  the  proper  regulation  of  which, 
he  supposes  all  virtue  to  consist. 

It  is  to  be  regretted,  that  more  attention  has  not 
been  paid  to  this  subject;  to  the  actual  constitution  of 
the  human  mind,  especially  of  its  active  principles, 
and  to  the  various  elements,  that  enter  into  the  forma- 
tion of  a  good  character.  Just  views  on  these  points 
would  do  much,  it  is  certain,  to  correct  many  prevail- 


ing  errours,  not  only  in  morals,  but  in  theology.  Light 
would  be  thrown  upon  the  laws  of  scriptural  interpre- 
tation ;  several  doctrines  of  the  Gospel,  particularly 
those  of  repentance  and  conversion,  would  receive  a 
more  clear,  satisfactory,  and  practical  explanation ; 
many  of  the  differences,  which  now  divide  serious 
and  well  disposed  Christians,  would  disappear ;  a 
more  candid  and  liberal  spirit  would  discover  itself  in 
our  treatment  of  one  another,  and  a  more  rational  and 
consistent,  if  not  a  warmer  piety  towards  God.  In 
considering  the  nature  and  sources  of  some  of  the 
most  mischievous  delusions,  that  have  vexed  the 
church,  the  confused  and  partial  conceptions,  that 
still  prevail  respecting  the  influence  of  religion  on  the 
character,  and  the  too  common  habit  of  representing 
many  things  as  the  genuine  offspring  of  benevolence 
and  piety,  which  originate  in  reality  in  a  perverted 
intellect,  or  a  diseased  state  of  the  affections,  there 
is  certainly  nothing  to  which  we  can  look  with  so 
much  hope  and  confidence  as  a  remedy  for  these 
evils,  as  to  the  improvements  which  have  been  made, 
are  making,  and  will  be  made,  in  the  Philosophy  of 
the  Human  Mind. 

The  reputation  of  Dr  Cogan,  as  a  metaphysician, 
must  depend  chiefly  on  his  Philosophical  Treatise  on 
the  Passions.  In  defining,  classifying,  and  describing 
the  passions,  affections,  and  desires,  which  belong  to 
our  nature,  and  in  accounting  for  their  almost  infinite 
varieties   and   diversities,    he   has  discovered    much 


acuteness  and  compass  of  mind  ;  and  given  us  pro- 
bably more  useful  information  on  the  subject,  than  can 
be  found  any  where  else  in  the  same  number  of  pages. 
He  considers,  that  all  our  passions  and  affections  may 
be  resolved  into  one  principle,  the  love  of  well- 
being  ;  even  our  aversions  being  no  other  than  par- 
ticular modifications  of  a  desire  founded  on  this  love, 
namely,  a  desire  of  being  liberated  from  whatever  ap- 
pears injurious  to  wellbeing.  Our  passions  and  affec- 
tions he  divides  into  two  classes ;  those,  which  owe 
their  origin  to  the  principle  of  self-love  ;  and  those, 
which  are  derived  from  the  social  principle.  Each  of 
these  classes  he  subdivides  into  two  orders ;  the  first 
embracing  the  passions  and  affections  in  which  the 
idea  of  good  predominates,  or  is  the  exciting  cause ; 
and  the  second,  those  in  which  the  idea  of  evil  pre- 
dominates, or  is  the  exciting  cause. 

The  author  is  a  decided  believer  in  the  real  exist- 
ence of  a  benevolent  principle  in  man,  distinct  from 
self-love,  and  not  a  mere  modification  of  it.  He  ad- 
mits, indeed,  as  all  must  gladly  admit,  that  much 
pleasure  and  satisfaction  are  felt  by  the  person  him- 
self, who  performs  a  benevolent  action ;  but  this 
pleasure  and  satisfaction  are  observed  to  follow,  or 
attend,  the  benevolent  action,  and  not  to  precede  it ; 
and  are,  therefore,  to  be  considered  rather  as  its  re- 
ward, than  as  its  motive.  There  is  sufficient  evidence, 
that  a  disinterested  sympathy  forms  a  part  of  our 
moral  constitution  ;  by  which  the  wellbeing  of  others 



is  so  connected  with  our  own,  that  an  interest  is  felt 
and  manifested  in  their  happiness  without  any  regard 
at  the  time  to  its  influence  on  ours.  It  is  an  original 
law  of  our  nature,  and  not  the  result  of  calculation. 
Another  principle  is  excited,  and  made  to  act ;  and, 
therefore,  the  motive  prompting  us  to  perform  a  bene- 
volent deed  is  by  no  means  to  be  confounded  with 
the  motive  prompting  us  to  one  purely  selfish.  It  is 
one  of  the  finest  characteristics  of  our  author's  writ- 
ings, that  he  takes  every  occasion  to  remark  upon  the 
derivation  of  our  best  and  only  permanent  gratifica- 
tions from  the  cultivation  and  exercise  of  this  benevo- 
lent principle.  "  Who  can  sufficiently  admire  that 
constitution  of  things,"  he  exclaims,  "which  has  placed 
the  supreme  happiness  of  man  in  communicating 
happiness  to  others?  Who  can  sufficiently  despise  the 
grovelling  soul,  whose  only  object  is  self-gratification  ? 
And  who  will  regret,  that  such  a  soul  can  never  pos- 
sess what  it  covets;  that  it  is  condemned  to  feed 
upon  husks  alone,  and  to  remain  an  eternal  stranger 
to  the  luxuries  of  benevolence  !"* 

In  his  Ethical  Treatise  on  the  Passions,  founded 
on  the  Principles  investigated  in  the  Philosophical 
Treatise,  it  must  be  admitted  that  Dr  Cogan  does 
not  discover  equal  talent  and  discrimination  ;  though 
it  contains  many  ingenious  remarks  and  happy  illus- 
trations, which  will  reward  well  an  attentive  perusal. 
It  is   the   leading   doctrine  of  this  work,  that  all  our 

*  Ethiral  Questions,  p.  103. 


passions  and  affections  are  good,  and  productive  of 
good,  unless  abused,  that  is,  bestowed  upon  unworthy 
objects,  or  carried  to  an  improper  extreme.  The 
principle  of  haired,  for  example,  is  a  useful  and  ne- 
cessary principle,  so  long  as  it  is  kept  under  a  due 
regulation ;  but  becomes  pernicious  and  criminal  when 
abused,  when  an  aversion  is  entertained  for  that  which 
is  a  real  good,  on  account  of  some  peculiar  quality  it 
may  possess,  which  is  unpleasant  to  our  feelings  ;  or, 
when  we  suffer  an  aversion  to  exceed,  in  any  case, 
the  limits  which  reason,  justice,  or  humanity  pre- 
scribes. Exemplifications  of  such  an  abuse  are  easily 
found  by  investigating  the  nature  of  envy,  cruelty, 
malignity.  It  is  by  these  abuses  and  irregulari- 
ties, that  those  passions  and  affections,  which  were 
designed  and  adapted  to  be  the  sources  and  guardians 
of  wellbeing,  both  in  ourselves  and  others,  often  be- 
come the  occasions  of  the  most  poignant  misery ; 
and,  indeed,  are  the  causes  of  all  the  manifold  and 
aggravated  sufferings,  which  afflict  humanity,  with  the 
exception,  perhaps,  of  some  of  those  that  result  from 
disease  and  want. 

Dr  Cogan  considers  that  there  is  no  disorder,  or 
irregularity  of  disposition  or  conduct,  which  may  not 
be  traced  to  one  or  more  of  these  three  causes;  igno- 
rance, the  influence  of  present  objects,  and  of  inor- 
dinate self-love.  Nay,  there  is  a  sense  in  which 
every  aberration  of  the  passions  and  affections  may 
be  ascribed  to  ignorance ;    as  the  strong  influence 

202  REMARKS   ON   THE 

of  present  objects,  and  the  power  of  inordinate 
self-love  to  lead  the  passions  and  affections  astray, 
lies  in  their  effect,  first  to  deceive  and  blind  the  un- 
derstanding, leading  it  to  misjudge  the  properties  of 
the  interesting  object.  To  guard,  therefore,  against 
these  disorders  and  irregularities,  we  are  provided 
with  intellectual  powers  and  the  means  of  mental 
culture,  by  the  aid  of  which  we  may  form,  or  cor- 
rect, our  judgments  as  to  the  real  properties  of  any 
object  that  excites  our  affections ;  and  ascertain 
whether  it  ought,  or  ought  not,  to  be  pursued. 

It  is  this,  according  to  Dr  Cogan,  that  makes  man 
a  moral  agent,  accountable  for  his  actions,  and  capa- 
ble of  merit  or  demerit.  It  is  a  beautiful  picture, 
which  he  gives  us  of  the  happiness  attendant  on  a 
life  of  regular  and  confirmed  virtue.  "  These  are 
indications  of  an  inward  and  deep  respect  for  virtue, 
which  may  exist  in  the  breasts  of  those  who  are  pre- 
vented, by  habits  of  depravity,  from  the  practice  of 
it.  How  congenial  therefore  must  it  be  to  the  minds 
of  those,  who  have  been  habituated  to  the  practice  of 
virtue  ;  who  feel  its  benignant  influence  in  their 
own  conduct ;  and  who  are  witnesses  to  the  peace, 
order,  harmony,  and  joy,  diffused  according  to  the 
sphere  of  its  influence  !  To  the  pleasures  arising 
from  the  approving  decisions  of  his  judgment,  from 
personal  advantages  in  the  course  of  a  virtuous  con- 
duct, from  the  esteem  of  the  worthy,  from  a  heart 
glowing  with  benevolence — the  man  of  confirmed  vir- 



tue  adds  the  pleasures  derived  from  a  refined  and 
exalted  taste.  He  admires  the  beauty  of  right  con- 
duct. The  symmetry  derived  from  well  ordered  af- 
fections is  far  more  interesting  to  him,  than  that  of 
forms  painted  on  the  canvass,  or  chiselled  out  in 
marble.  The  voice  of  harmony,  arising  from  the 
cheerfulness  of  virtuous  innocence,  delights  his  ear 
more  than  all  the  melodies  of  music.  The  grandeur 
of  virtue,  rising  superiour  to  every  misfortune  or  seduc- 
tion, constitutes  with  him  the  true  sublime  ;  and  ex- 
cites in  his  breast  the  elevated  emotions  of  admiration 
and  delight  to  a  much  higher  degree,  than  can  be 
produced  by  the  majesty  of  nature  itself  I"* 

The  author's  treatise,  entitled  Ethical  Questions, 
or  Speculations  on  the  principal  Subjects  of  Contro- 
versy in  Moral  Philosophy,  forms  a  volume,  as  its 
title  intimates,  which  contains  much  questionable  mat- 
ter. By  those,  however,  who  agree  with  the  author 
in  his  speculations,  it  may  be  thought  to  discover  as 
much  learning  and  ingenuity,  as  any  which  he  has 
published.  He  denies  that  human  nature  is  endow- 
ed with  a  Moral  Sense  to  perceive  moral  principles, 
in  a  manner  analogous  to  the  organs  of  sense  in  the 
perception  of  external  objects.  All,  he  says,  that 
can  be  ascribed  to  the  constitution  of  human  na- 
ture in  this  question,  is  an  inherent  love  of  wellbeing, 
disposing  us  to  approve  of  whatever  we  think  to  be 

*  Ethical  Treatise  on  the  Passions.  Part  II.  Disquisition  II.  Chap 
II.  Sec.  2. 


conducive  to  it,  and  to  disapprove  of  whatever  we 
think  injurious  to  it;  the  degree  of  our  approbation 
or  disapprobation  being,  in  every  instance,  according 
to  our  opinion  of  the  extent  of  the  evil,  or  the  malig- 
nity of  the  design.  What  is  called  conscience,  or 
the  moral  sense,  is  therefore  according  to  this  writer 
nothing  but  the  reason  of  man,  employed  in  judging 
of  human  conduct  with  regard  to  its  influence  on  well- 
being  ;  supported  in  its  decisions  by  some  modifi- 
cation of  love  or  hatred,  according  as  the  action  or 
agent,  which  is  the  object  of  each  particular  decision, 
is  thought  to  be  friendly  or  inimical  to  the  order, 
harmony,  and  happiness  of  the  moral  world.  It  is 
however  admitted,  that  these  decisions  of  the  mind 
on  moral  subjects,  though  in  all  cases  the  result  of 
reasoning  in  the  first  instance,  become  by  the  power 
of  habit  as  instantaneous  and  direct,  apparently,  as 
those  of  intuition  or  sensation. 

Our  author  is  the  open  and  strenuous  advocate  of 
the  doctrine  of  Philosophical  Necessity.  He  insists 
upon  the  argument,  that  every  act  of  the  will  must 
have  a  cause  out  of  itself;  for  even  if  we  suppose 
the  will  to  have  a  power  to  move  itself,  it  must  still 
have  some  inducement  for  every  particular  exertion 
of  this  power,  or  the  action  resulting  from  it,  so  far 
from  being  a  moral  action,  would  not  even  be  a  ra- 
tional one.  He  rejects  the  idea  of  a  liberty  of  choice 
among  motives,  as  this  supposes  the  existence  of 
several  motives  at  the  same  time,  whereas,  strictly 


speaking,  there  can  never  be  but  one  motive,  namely, 
the  inducement  that  actually  moves  us.  Several  in- 
ducements there  may  be,  drawing  different  ways,  but 
it  is  only  the  strongest  inducement  at  the  time  that 
can  prevail,  and  that  must  prevail.  Whatever  seems 
at  the  time,  in  existing  circumstances  and  in  the  ex- 
isting state  of  our  feelings  and  whole  mind,  most 
consonant  to  our  wellbeing,  we  cannot  but  do. 

In  what  has  been  said,  it  is  neither  expected  nor 
desired  to  make  a  single  convert  to  the  scheme  of 
necessity.  It  is  not  at  all  surprising,  that  men  should 
be  slow  to  receive  a  doctrine,  one  of  the  legitimate 
inferences  from  which  seems  to  be,  that  the  charac- 
ter in  every  instance  is  formed  for  and  not  by  the 
individual.  Perhaps  it  may  be  found  on  a  close  and 
careful  investigation,  that  both  the  necessarian  and  the 
libertarian  are  right  in  the  main  ;  differing  from  each 
other  in  their  verbal  statements  only,  because  accus- 
tomed to  view  the  subject  of  moral  agency  under 
different  aspects,  and  to  use  a  different  language  in 
reporting  their  observations.  In  justice,  however,  to 
the  doctrine  of  philosophical  necessity,  it  ought  to  be 
observed  that  most  of  the  objections  urged  against  it, 
on  the  ground  of  its  supposed  immoral  tendency,  have 
originated  in  a  very  partial  and  superficial  acquaint- 
ance with  the  system. 

There  is  still  another  charge,  if  possible,  of  a  still 
graver  character  against  the  hypothesis  assumed  by 
Dr  Cogan,  which  he  succeeds  very  happily  in  evad- 


ing.  It  should  however  be  observed,  that  it  is  by  a 
way  of  escape  not  open  to  the  calvinist,  though  he 
also  is  pressed  with  the  same  difficulty. 

"  Whoever  asserts,"  says  he,  "  that  our  doctrine 
leads  to  the  honours  of  fatalism,  takes  a  very  imper- 
fect view  of  the  subject.  The  imagination  may  easily 
extend  the  chain  until  it  shall  arrive  at  all  that  is 
great  and  good.  Human  beings  have  incessantly 
acted  upon  the  grand  principle  of  seeking  happiness, 
although  they  have  so  frequently  and  so  egregiously 
mistaken  their  way.  But  this  is  no  proof  that  they 
will  always  mistake  their  way.  We  daily  perceive 
that  a  conviction  of  errour  leads  to  future  caution. 
Ignorance  corrects  itself,  by  our  experience  of  the 
evils  which  it  produces ;  and  experience  becomes  the 
most  impressive  instructor.  Mankind  must  at  last 
form  more  consistent  ideas  of  the  nature  of  good,  and 
obtain  a  more  accurate  knowledge  of  the  ways  and 
means  to  secure  it,  or  they  will  continue  eternal 
idiots.  In  every  step  they  take,  they  are  uniformly 
acting  according  to  the  laws  of  cause  and  effect ;  and 
although  they  continue  to  follow  their  own  inclina- 
tions, in  every  act  they  perform,  these  inclinations 
may  finally  conduct  them  right.  Repeated  expe- 
rience must  finally  correct  the  grossest  ignorance  ; 
and  repeated  evils  suffered  in  one  course,  will  compel 
them  to  pursue  another,  until  they  shall  finally  have 
obtained  wisdom  to  make  a  choice  of  virtue  and  reli- 
gion as  the  supreme  good. 


"  This  life  may  be  much  too  short  for  the  purpose  ; 
but  the  human  race  have  an  eternity  before  them. 
In  a  future  state,  similar  principles  may  operate  in  a 
similar  manner,  until  the  whole  intellectual  creation 
shall  become  reclaimed  and  happy.  Whoever  has 
an  existence,  must  inevitably  desire  his  own  happi- 
ness, wherever  he  exists  ;  and  he  will  pursue  it  by 
every  method  in  his  power;  and  as,  wherever  he 
may  be,  he  will  continue  under  the  inspection  of  the 
universal  Father,  whose  wisdom  is  equal  to  his  power, 
and  whose  goodness  is  equal  to  both,  the  continued 
and  extended  operation  of  cause  and  effect  may  lead 
to  an  ultimatum  devoutly  to  be  wished,  universal  hap- 

The  author's  views  of  Moral  Obligation  partake 
largely  of  the  peculiarities  of  the  same  school.  He 
conceives  that  this  also  may  be  resolved  into  that 
love  of  wellbeing,  which  is  the  spring  of  every  affec- 
tion, desire,  and  motive  in  man.  Man  is  obliged,  by 
his  very  nature,  to  pursue  whatever  he  perceives  to 
be  conducive  to  his  permanent  wellbeing  ;  but  his 
powers  of  discernment,  unless  obscured  by  ignorance, 
or  perverted  by  the  undue  influence  of  present  ob- 
jects and  inordinate  self-love,  must  enable  him  to 
perceive,  that  duty  and  virtue  are  conducive  to  his 
permanent  wellbeing  ;  consequently  his  very  nature, 
considering  him  as  a  rational  and  intelligent  agent 
actuated  by  a  supreme  desire  of  good,  must  make 

*  Ethical  Questions,  pp.  16S,  169,  170. 


the  practice  of  duty  and  virtue  universally  obligatory, 
"  It  is  here,"  he  observes,  "  that  the  mighty  difference 
between  rationality  and  irrationality  consists.  The 
enjoyment  of  this  good  is  the  basis  of  self-interest ;  to 
diffuse  it,  is  the  soul  of  benevolence  ;  every  thing  is 
fit  and  right,  that  promotes  it  to  the  greatest  extent ; 
every  thing  is  wrong  which  impedes  or  destroys  it. 
The  intrinsic  value  of  prudence,  discretion,  justice, 
kindness,  and  humanity,  proceeds  from  their  benig- 
nant influence  upon  happiness ;  the  deformity  of  vice 
consists  in  its  fiendlike  malignity.  It  is  the  expecta- 
tion of  good,  which  creates  submission  to  human 
laws ;  and  it  is  good,  which  assembles  every  motive 
of  self-interest,  and  every  sentiment  of  love  and  grati- 
tude around  the  throne  of  the  great  source  of 
good  !"* 

We  notice  next  in  order,  in  the  series  of  Dr  Co- 
gan's  works,  his  Theological  Disquisitions,  or  an 
Enquiry  into  those  Principles  of  Religion,  which  are 
most  influential  in  directing  and  regulating  the  Pas- 
sions and  Affections  of  the  Mind.  His  remarks  on 
Natural  Religion  are  brief  and  sometimes  unsatisfac- 
tory ;  but  they  always  breathe  a  noble  spirit,  and  are 
highly  characteristic,  not  less  of  the  writer's  amiable 
disposition,  than  of  his  peculiar  philosophy.  The 
following  extract  will  enable  one  to  form  some  idea 
of  the  manner  in  which  he  treats  the  subject,  as  well 
as  of  the  conclusions  to  which  he  is  conducted. 

*  Ethical  Questions,  pp.  391,  392. 


11  Although  to  will,  to  plan,  to  execute,  be  equal 
and  instantaneous,  respecting  the  divine  mind,  yet  in 
the  order  of  our  conceptions,  the  Goodness  of  God 
prompting  him  to  create,  is  the  first  attribute  that 
presents  itself.  The  next  is  that  of  boundless  Know- 
ledge, by  which  he  discerns  effects  in  their  causes, 
and  every  possible  result  from  every  possible  energy. 
From  such  sources  Wisdom  is  enabled  to  form  its 
plans  of  extensive  good,  and  to  establish  those  laws, 
by  which  life  shall  be  diffused,  and  its  enjoyments 
multiplied;  that  Wisdom  which  has  devised  and  con- 
stituted such  a  diversity  of  powers  and  properties  in 
the  material  and  inanimate  creation  ;  of  instincts  and 
propensities  in  the  animal  kingdom  ;  and  has  endow- 
ed the  human  species  with  those  intellectual  and 
moral  faculties,  which  are  the  inexhaustible  sources 
of  the  most  exalted  and  refined  enjoyments.  Such 
plans  of  wisdom  and  beneficence  will  be  indubitably 
accompanied  in  their  order,  both  of  time  and  place, 
by  a  Power  which  conquers  all  opposition  ;  compels 
apparent  obstacles  into  its  service  ;  changes  disorder 
into  harmony ;  and  distress  into  blessings ;  brings 
light  out  of  darkness,  and  cherishes  virtue  in  the 
midst  of  depravities  that  confound  and  appal  !"* 

In  the  disquisition  that  follows  on  the  Jewish  Dis- 
pensation, many  very  ingenious  thoughts  and  reason- 
ings occur ;  but  it  must  be  confessed  that  they  suffer 
much  for  want  of  method,  condensation,  and  point. 

*  Theological  Disquisitions.     Vol.  I.  pp.  32,  33. 


It  is  a  part  of  the  author's  system,  that  the  object  of 
all  revelation  is  to  produce  good  by  the  diffusion  of 
light  and  knowledge,  in  exact  proportion  as  the  minds 
of  men  are  prepared  for  their  reception.  It  there- 
fore becomes  necessary  for  him  to  show,  as  he  does, 
that  the  records  of  the  Old  Testament,  and  especially 
the  history  of  the  Jewish  nation,  and  the  laws  and 
institutions  of  Moses,  agree  with  and  support  this 
theory.  There  is  much  force  and  pertinency  in  the 
closing  paragraph,  intended  as  an  answer  to  the 
doubts  and  cavils  sometimes  urged  against  the  divine 
legation  of  Moses,  and  often  with  a  captiousness  that 
does  no  honour  either  to  the  head  or  heart  of  the 

"  Many  very  important  positions  are  established 
which  no  objections  can  invalidate.  The  selection  of 
a  particular  people  for  a  certain  purpose,  the  accom- 
plishment of  which  could  not  have  been  expected 
according  to  the  ordinary  course  of  human  events  ; 
the  importance  of  this  purpose  ;  the  preference  given 
to  the  descendants  of  Abraham,  in  honour  of  the  ex- 
emplary faith  and  piety  of  their  progenitor ;  the 
means  used  to  preserve  this  people  from  the  fatal 
contamination  of  idolatry  ;  their  deliverance  from  a 
state  of  bondage,  and  their  establishment  in  a  land 
promised  to  their  ancestors  ;  the  superiour  wisdom, 
strict  morality,  sublime  piety,  exemplified  in  every 
institution,  honoured  in  every  punishment,  and  in  every 
reward  ;  and  the  final  triumph  of  monotheism  among 


this  people,  are  facts  which  cannot  be  denied  or  con- 
futed by  frivolous  disputes  about  dczmons  and  witches, 
and  magicians,  and  borrowing  and  lending  of  jewels  ; 
or  the  precise  degrees  of  inspiration  in  every  indi- 
vidual agent  of  the  divine  purposes.  We  know  that 
the  sun  exists,  and  we  consent  to  be  cheered  by  its 
light  and  splendour,  without  waiting  till  astronomers 
shall  have  explained  the  nature,  or  wiped  off  the  dis- 
grace of  those  few  spots,  which  our  ignorance  has 
placed  before  his  disk.  When  it  can  be  proved,  that 
the  happiness  of  mankind  is  not  an  object  worthy  of 
the  Deity  ;  that  it  is  not  the  design  of  the  Deity  to 
lead  us,  according  to  our  nature  and  the  extent  of 
our  faculties,  from  gross  ignorance  to  knowledge  and 
virtue ;  that  the  numerous  facts  recorded  in  the 
Jewish  history  have  no  relation  to  this  object,  and 
have  contributed  nothing  to  its  promotion  ;  then,  and 
not  till  then,  may  the  advocates  for  the  divine  lega- 
tion of  Moses  be  alarmed,  by  trifling  objections  urged 
respecting  minuter  subjects,  over  which  distance  of 
time,  a  difference  in  customs,  manners,  idioms  of 
languages,  and  other  circumstances  have  thrown  a 
temporary  veil."* 

In  the  remaining  theological  disquisition,  which  is 
upon  the  Characteristic  Excellencies  of  Christianity, 
he  proceeds  to  apply  his  leading  principles  as  before  ; 
to  evince  the  superiour  lights  and  motives  which  the 

*  Theological  Disquisitions.     Vol.  I.  pp.  458,  459. 



Gospel  affords  to  the  practice  of  virtue,  and  the  pre- 
paration of  the  moral  offspring  of  God  for  permanent 
felicity.  According  to  Dr  Cogan,  the  principal  ad- 
vantages, derived  from  the  christian  dispensation, 
relate  to  the  views  which  it  has  given  us  of  the  parent- 
al character  of  God  ;  the  benefits  resulting  from  the 
mediatorial  office  of  Christ ;  the  filial  confidence, 
which  constitutes  the  essence  of  christian  faith,  that 
it  is  adapted  to  inspire  ;  and  the  hopes  and  fears 
which  it  awakens  respecting  a  future  life.  Under  the 
head  of  the  parental  character  of  the  Deity,  we  find 
the  following  remarks  on  the  reasonableness  of  a  be- 
lief in  a.  particular  providence ;  which,  for  the  impor- 
tance of  the  subject,  and  the  excellent  spirit  they 
breathe,  must  be  read  with  interest  even  by  those, 
who  may  not  assent  to  all  his  conclusions. 

"  We  acknowledge  that  the  Deity  is  immutable  in 
his  nature,  but  we  must  also  acknowledge  that  he  is 
necessarily  active.  His  operations  must  be  incessant, 
or  he  is  not  always  the  same.  In  what  manner  he  is 
incessantly  operative  is  a  secret  no  one  can  disclose. 
Nor  can  we  discover  what  particulars  are  included  in 
our  received  axioms  concerning  the  laws  of  nature, 
and  the  agencies  of  cause  and  effect.  We  are  gene- 
rally prone  to  confine  the  course  of  nature  entirely  to 
physical  causes,  or  to  the  influence  which  one  body 
is  ordained  to  have  upon  another,  according  to  certain 
immutable  rules.  But  if  the  ever  active  Deity  hath 
not  retired  from  his  operations,  something  more  must 


be  understood.  It  is  possible,  that  the  permanency 
of  physical  powers  may  totally  depend  upon  the  per- 
manency of  his  agency.  Nor  is  it  irrational  to  sup- 
pose, that  in  certain  cases,  where  the  usual  course  of 
things  is  not  equal  to  the  production  of  important 
events  preordained,  this  ever  active  Being  exerts  an 
extraordinary  energy,  or  a  different  kind  of  energy, 
according  to  certain  moral  laws  of  his  own  appoint- 
ment. When  God  condescended  to  change  the  order 
of  nature,  or  interrupt  the  usual  influence  of  causes, 
in  order  to  impress  a  conviction  upon  the  minds  of 
others,  although  it  was  by  the  infliction  of  judgments, 
the  motive  was  always  benevolent.  Some  essential 
good  was  to  be  produced,  which  could  not  otherwise 
have  existed.  May  not  a  similar  motive  induce  him 
to  a  similar  interference,  although  in  a  more  secret, 
and  perfectly  imperceptible  manner,  in  order  to  as- 
sist, support,  and  console  those  who,  in  conformity  to 
his  commands,  repose  their  confidence  in  him,  that, 
their  strength  may  be  equal  to  their  conflicts,  and  that 
in  the  hour  of  temptation  and  distress,  they  may  not 
make  shipwreck  of  faith  and  a  good  conscience  ? 

"  This  subject  has  been  briefly  considered  in  some 
preliminary  observations  to  a  preceding  Disquisition, 
to  which  the  reader  is  referred.*  It  was  there  ob- 
served that  our  reason  points  out  three  modes  by 
which  the  Divine  Being  may  be  supposed  to  execute 
his  purpose  ;  by  a  stated  concatenation  of  cause  and 

*  See  Theological  Disquisitions.     Preliminary  Observations. 


effect,  according  to  physical  laws,  destined  to  produce 
numberless  beneficial  effects,  both  in  the  natural  and 
moral  world,  which  may  be  equal  to  various  purposes, 
both  physical  and  moral,  in  the  plans  of  his  provi- 
dence ;  by  an  open  and  ostensible  manifestation  of 
extraordinary  power,  in  order  to  impress  a  conviction 
upon  the  human  mind,  of  some  important  facts,  which 
human  reason  could  not  have  discovered,  or  to  alarm 
and  terrify  a  sinful  world  ;  and,  thirdly,  when  these 
manifestations  are  not  necessary  or  proper,  may  we 
not  imagine  that  the  Deity  exerts  a  secret  influence, 
by  which  a  new  and  extensive  series  of  operations 
may  arise,  which  could  not  have  existed  according 
to  the  former  tenour  of  things ;  and  which,  had  the 
operations  been  made  manifest,  would  have  been 
deemed  miraculous  9 

"  Many  facts  are  upon  record  which  evince  that  a 
conviction  of  this  secret  agency  may  be  founded, 
either  upon  the  prediction  uttered,  that  certain  events 
should  take  place  by  the  instrumentality  of  natural 
causes ;  or  upon  so  remarkable  a  coincidence  in  their 
operations  with  me  peculiar  exigence  of  the  case,  as 
compels  us  to  acknowledge  the  hand  of  God.  Many 
of  the  plagues  of  Egypt  illustrate  the  former  position. 
The  passage  of  the  Israelites  through  the  Red  Sea ; 
the  destruction  of  their  enemies  by  the  return  of  the 
mighty  waters ;  and  the  occasional  supply  of  quails 
in  the  wilderness,  illustrate  the  latter.  The  extreme 
violence  of  an  eastern,  or  a  western  wind,  cannot  ap- 


pear  to  us  as  a  deviation  from  the  laws  of  nature;  nor 
the  sudden  and  impetuous  change  of  these  winds ; 
yet  their  opportune  influence,  and  the  important  pur- 
poses answered  by  this  influence,  induce  every  one 
who  believes  in  the  Mosaic  history,  to  infer  that  there 
was  a  miraculous  interference  of  Providence.  But 
the  Almighty  is  at  all  times  free  to  employ  a  similar 
agency,  without  admitting  us  into  his  counsels,  and 
without  our  being  able  to  trace  his  footsteps.  This 
secret  agency  seems  to  be  the  proper  object,  as  it  is 
the  encouragement  of  prayer;  and  although  the  time, 
manner,  and  degree,  are  totally  unknown,  yet  devout 
minds  may  safely  rely  upon  the  promise,  that  they 
shall  not  seek  his  face  in  vain. 

"  The  concealment  is  indubitably  founded  on  wis- 
dom. The  laws  of  nature,  or  the  operations  of  cause 
and  effect,  cannot  be  too  intimately  known.  They 
are  the  foundation  of  all  science,  and  a  confidence  in 
them  is  necessary  to  encourage  and  direct  our  pur- 
suits. Miraculous  displays  of  power  have  sometimes 
been  employed,  to  convince  an  ignorant  and  unthink- 
ing world,  that  the  Lord  God  omnipotent  reigneth. 
But  many  evils  would  arise,  were  it  distinctly  known 
in  what  cases,  and  to  what  a  degree,  the  divine  aids 
promised  in  the  Gospel  were  administered  to  each 
individual  christian.  The  favoured  mind  would,  in 
that  instance,  possess  the  infallibility  of  inspiration, 
which  might  inspire  it  with  arrogance  and  pride,  and 
induce  it  to  neglect  the  ordinary  means  of  improve- 

216  REMARKS   ON   THE 

ment ;  while  jealousy,  envy,  and  despair,  would  tor- 
ment those  who  wTere  less  favoured  ;  and  the  free 
agency  of  man  would  be  effectually  destroyed.  '  The 
wind  bloweth  where  it  listeth,  and  thou  hearest  the 
sound  thereof,  but  canst  not  tell  whence  it  comes,  and 
whither  it  goeth  ;  so  is  every  one,  saith  our  Saviour, 
that  is  born  of  the  Spirit.'  Whoever  confidently 
maintains  that,  in  any  particular  instance,  he  is  influ- 
enced by  the  Spirit  of  God,  should  he  not  impose 
upon  others,  wretchedly  deceives  himself.  For  a 
certain  knowledge  of  the  operation  would  render  it 
miraculous.  His  feelings  must  be  fallacious,  for  in 
this  department  of  the  divine  government,  all  the  ope- 
rations of  God  are  designedly  and  wisely  concealed 
from  human  knowledge.  By  their  fruits  alone  are 
such  influences  to  be  inferred.  These  fruits  are  not 
a  presumptuous  confidence,  but  '  love,  joy,  peace, 
longsufTering,  gentleness,  goodness,  faith,  meekness, 
temperance.'  "* 

Respecting  the  benefits  accruing  to  man  from  the 
Merits  and  Sufferings  of  Jesus  Christ,  the  views  of 
Dr  Cogan  are  somewhat  peculiar.  He  supposes,  that 
the  penalty  incurred  by  man's  transgression  was  a 
total  extinction  of  his  being  ;  that  God,  however,  in 
consideration  of  the  perfect  obedience,  and  voluntary 
sufferings  and  death  of  Jesus  Christ,  has  been  pleased 
to  commute  the  punishment,  by  changing  this  total  ex- 

*  Theological  Disquisition  on  the  Characteristic  Excellencies  of 
Christianity.     Part  I.  Chap.  2. 


tinction  of  being  into  a  temporary  suspension  of  it  in 
the  grave  ;  so  that  we  may  be  said  literally  to  be  in- 
debted to  Jesus  Christ,  not  only  for  the  doctrine  of  our 
immortality,  but  for  our  immortality  itself.  This  privi- 
lege he  supposes  the  merits  and  sufferings  of  Christ  to 
have  procured  for  the  whole  human  race ;  just  as  the 
uncommon  faith  and  piety  of  Abraham  procured  pe- 
culiar privileges  for  his  descendants. 

But  however  great  may  be  the  privilege  of  being 
thus  restored  to  life,  he  admits  that  it  is  not  in  itself 
a  restoration  to  happiness  ;  it  only  presents  us  with  a 
continued  opportunity  to  prepare,  or  qualify  ourselves 
for  happiness.  It  is  a  principle  with  our  author,  from 
which  he  never  departs  in  his  reasonings,  and  which 
is  as  applicable  to  a  future  life  as  to  this,  that  rational 
beings  cannot  possess  wellbeing,  without  the  love  and 
practice  of  virtue,  nor  complete  felicity,  without  the 
perfection  of  virtue  and  piety.  Though,  therefore, 
immortal  life  be  secured  to  us  by  what  Christ  has 
done  for  us;  immortal  happiness  can  only  be  secured 
by  what  we  may  do  for  ourselves,  with  the  means  and 
assistances  which  God  has  provided. 

Christian  faith  is  explained  by  this  writer  as  im- 
plying that  entire  confidence  in  Jesus  Christ,  which 
is  necessary  that  the  promises  and  threatenings  of  the 
the  Gospel  may  have  their  effect  on  our  characters. 
For  of  course  these  promises  can  have  no  effect  on 
us  any  further  than  they  are  believed,  nor  be  believ- 
ed any  further  than  we  have  confidence  in  the  agent 


employed  to  utter  them.  The  following  judicious 
observations  on  the  kindred  subjects  of  justification 
and  human  merit  occur  in  this  connexion. 

"  The  terms  justified,  just,  justifier ;  and  also 
righteous,  righteousness,  righteousness  of  God,  &ic. 
which  are  so  frequently  used  by  the  Apostle,  convey, 
in  the  currency  of  the  English  language,  different  sig- 
nifications from  those  which  are  uniformly  annexed  to 
them  in  the  original  Greek.  We  are  accustomed  to 
consider  the  word  to  justify,  as  being  synonymous 
with  to  vindicate  from  a  particular  accusation  ;  and 
the  justifier,  as  the  advocate  who  pleads  the  cause  of 
the  accused.  By  righteousness,  we  are  prone  to  un- 
derstand the  perfection  of  a  moral  character  in  gene- 
ral. But  by  such  applications,  the  primitive  signifi- 
cations of  the  words  are  placed  at  a  considerable 
distance  from  each  other ;  so  that  their  natural  con- 
nexion with  themselves  and  their  subject  is  destroyed. 
All  these  terms  are  derived  from  the  same  origin  ; 
and  they  invariably  relate  to  a  just  decision,  in  a  judi- 
cial process.  Consequently,  they  are  equally  appli- 
cable to  the  condemnation  of  the  guilty,  and  the 
vindication  of  the  innocent,  or  to  an  honourable  ac- 
quitted from  the  charges  which  have  been  brought 
against  him. 

"  Nor  do  they  exclude  a  free  pardon,  or  mitiga- 
tion of  the  legal  punishment,  where  the  charge  may 
have  been  substantiated.  All  these  may  be  righteous 
judgments.     The   first  places  before  the  eyes  of  the 


offender  and  of  the  public,  the  law,  the  'transgress- 
ion, and  the  penalty.  The  other  evinces  that  neither 
the  offence,  nor  the  penalty,  is  applicable  to  the  ac- 
cused. His  innocence  has  been  proved,  and  strict 
justice  demands  that  he  should  be  acquitted.  In  the 
remission  of  the  punishment,  or  mitigation  of  the 
penalty  of  the  law,  the  decisions  of  equity  consist  in 
pronouncing  the  offender  to  be  guilty  ;  by  which  a 
very  important  distinction  is  inviolably  preserved  be- 
tween the  guilty  and  the  innocent.  The  law  is  pro- 
tected, and  the  offender  disgraced.  His  demerits 
and  his  danger  are  publicly  made  known.  But  such 
a  discovery  cannot  be  a  total  impediment  to  the  exer- 
cise of  mercy.  If  it  were,  mercy  would  cease  to 
have  an  existence.  Wherever  the  detection  of  guilt, 
and  immediate  exposure  to  severe  sufferings,  inspire 
the  offender  with  anguish  and  contrition,  they  also 
inspire  a  disposition  in  every  benevolent  mind  to 
soften  the  rigours  of  the  law,  if  circumstances  will 
permit ;  nor  does  such  a  mind  apprehend  that  it  will 
offend  justice,  either  by  the  remission  or  the  mitiga- 
tion of  the  penalty,  as  prudence  may  dictate.  By 
this  constitution  of  our  nature,  we  are  rendered  the 
guardians  both  of  justice  and  of  clemency.  We  re- 
sent the  offence,  but  we  pity  the  offender. 

"  Nor  is  this  right  relinquished  in  the  establishment 

of  civil  governments.     A  mercy  seat  is  always  placed 

somewhere.     Provision  is  always  made  for  occasional 

acts  of  grace.     Nay,  the  most  cruel  tyrant  claims  to 



himself  the  right  of  showing  mercy  when  he  pleases. 
Were  any  of  his  subjects  to  litigate  this  privilege,  they 
would  be  in  danger  of  suffering  for  the  insult.  In 
cases  of  this  kind,  all  that  the  principles  of  wisdom 
and  justice  require,  is,  that  in  the  mode  of  exercising 
mercy  the  criminal  should  be  encouraged  to  reform, 
and  not  repeat  his  crimes  ;  and  that  his  fellow  sub- 
jects should  be  discouraged  from  imitating  his  wicked 
example.  Where  penitence  is  sincere,  and  there  are 
sanguine  hopes  of  reformation,  although  the  offender 
has  not  been  justified  according  to  the  stricter  sense 
of  the  word,  mercy  will  freely  consent  that  he  shall, 
in  the  future,  be  treated  as  if  he  had  been  justified. 
His  former  offences  shall  no  longer  exclude  him  from 
the  privileges  common  to  inoffensive  citizens."* 

The  following  excellent  remarks  on  merit  are  found- 
ed on  the  same  principles,  and  accord  with  the  same 
general  system. 

"Absolute  merit  belongs  not  to  the  sinful  children 
of  God.  Even  the  future,  however  exemplary,  can- 
not recall  the  past.  Life  and  immortality  are  the  re- 
wards of  moral  perfection  only ;  and  the  title  of  Right 
is  lost  by  a  single  act  of  disobedience.  Among  those 
who  are  clothed  with  humanity,  the  claim  belongs  to 
the  immaculate  Son  of  God  alone.  He  knew  no  sin, 
and  with  him  the  Father  was  always  well  pleased.  In 
him  the  merit  was  absolute. 

*  Ibid.  Part  II.  Chap.  1.     On  the  Mediatorial  Office  of  Christ. 


"  Conditional  merit  consists  in  our  complying  with 
the  terms  of  salvation  proposed.  Although  a  com- 
pliance be  simply  an  act  of  prudence,  and  can  lay  no 
claim  to  any  other  kind  of  merit ;  although  the  re- 
ward is  so  infinitely  superiour  to  the  nature  and  effects 
of  the  act  itself,  yet  the  man  who  conforms  to  the 
injunction  is  entitled,  by  virtue  of  the  promise,  to  the 
reward  proposed.  The  terms  are,  'Believe  in  the 
Lord  Jesus  Christ ;'  receive  a  dispensation  which 
proclaims  pardon  to  the  penitent,  and  assures  those 
who  return  to  filial  obedience,  that  they  shall  be  enti- 
tled to  all  the  privileges  of  children,  by  being  adopted 
into  the  family  of  heaven.  Compliance  with  such 
terms  is  simply  an  act  of  discretion ;  to  reject  them  is 
the  extreme  of  folly,  and  it  indicates  the  absolute 
dominion  of  vice. 

"  On  comparative  merit  is  founded  the  wise  deter- 
mination, to  reward  every  man  according  to  his  com- 
parative deserts.  By  it  we  perceive  the  justice  of  the 
decree,  that  'whoever  sows  sparingly,  shall  reap  spar- 
ingly ;  and  he  that  sows  plentifully,  shall  reap  plenti- 

"  The  importance  of  these  distinctions  is  manifest, 
from  the  gross  abuses  committed  by  mistakes  con- 
cerning the  nature  of  merit  and  demerit.  Some 
have  been  so  extravagant  as  to  conceive  that  particu- 
lar actions,  which  have  generally  been  of  their  own 
devising,  are  of  a  nature  so  meritorious,  that  they  will 
be  received  as  substitutes  for  the  moral  virtues ;  that 

222  REMARKS   ON   THE 

they  contain  intrinsic  merit  sufficient  to  compen- 
sate for  every  defect  or  imperfection ;  without  reflect- 
ing that  a  continuance  in  vice  must  become  a  disqual- 
ification for  a  state  of  purity  and  perfection  ;  and 
without  considering  that  there  is  more  absolute  de- 
merit in  a  single  vice,  in  one  act  of  disobedience  to 
such  a  Parent,  than  there  can  be  of  merit  in  the  most 
splendid  virtues. 

"  Others  again  have  run  into  the  opposite  extreme. 
In  the  confusion  of  their  minds,  they  have  declaimed 
against  the  merit  of  good  works  with  such  indiscrim- 
inate vehemence  as  to  discourage  the  practice.  They 
pray  earnestly  for  Holiness,  but  inveigh  against  Vir- 
tue and  Morality  ;  without  considering  that  Holiness 
can  be  no  other  than  the  practice  of  virtue  from  reli- 
gious motives ;  and  no  man  can  practice  holiness 
without  understanding  the  nature  of  virtue,  and  the 
extent  of  its  ramifications."* 

As  has  been  intimated  before,  Dr  Cogan  discovers 
nothing  in  reason,  or  revelation,  to  preclude  the  pos- 
sibility, that  those  who  die  vicious  and  impenitent  may 
find  correction  as  well  as  chastisement  in  the  suffer- 
ings, which  they  are  doomed  to  undergo;  until  their 
ignorance  is  dispelled,  and  their  obduracy  conquered, 
and  the  whole  moral  creation  ultimately  restored  to 
knowledge,  purity,  and  blessedness.  Much  of  the 
volume  is  appropriated  to  a  discussion  of  this  subject; 
and  whatever    may  be   our    opinion  respecting    the 

-  Ibid.  Part  I.  Chap.  3 



general  question,  it  is  impossible  not  to  allow  that 
there  is  much  justice  and  spirit  in  the  following  stric- 
tures upon  those  representations  of  the  future,  eternal, 
and  infinite  miseries  of  the  damned,  which  are  made 
to  occupy  so  large  a  space  in  the  preaching  and  writ- 
ings of  calvinists. 

"As  the  doctrine  itself  represents  the  true  God, 
in  a  character  which  resembles  that  ascribed  to  the 
heathen  deities,  it  was  not  unnatural  to  expect,  that 
adopting  the  methods  practised  by  pagan  worship- 
pers might  also  render  him  propitious  ;  and  every 
subterfuge  has  accordingly  been  employed,  rather 
than  to  submit  to  the  severer  penance  of  '  denying 
all  ungodliness,  and  every  worldly  lust,'  in  order  to 
escape  the  misery  they  professed  to  dread.  Multi- 
tudes have  considered  the  punishment  of  everlasting 
misery  so  disproportionate  to  their  guilt,  that  the 
most  abandoned  have  secretly  indulged  the  hopes 
of  escaping.  Nature  prompts  every  rational  creature 
of  God  to  trust  in  his  mercy.  Numbers  will  not, 
cannot,  believe  that  he  is  so  implacable  as  their  creed 
has  taught  them.  They  will  hope  that  he  cannot  re- 
tain his  anger  forever ;  and  they  are  prone  also  to 
consider  an  escape  from  eternal  wretchedness,  as  an 
acquittal  from  every  degree  of  punishment. 

"  But  some  divines  themselves  are  fostering  such 
dangerous  delusions.  Their  compassionate  hearts 
shudder  at  their  own  principles ;  and  they  have  hu- 
manely devised  a  prompt  method  of  saving  the  most 



profligate  sinner  from  eternal  wrath.  Although  they 
represent  sin  to  be  of  so  malignant  a  nature,  that  all 
the  flames  of  hell  cannot,  through  myriads  of  ages, 
purify  the  polluted  soul,  yet  a  simple  act  of  faith  in 
a  crucified  Saviour,  at  the  moment  of  nature's  disso- 
lution, or  with  the  terrours  of  death  before  their  eyes, 
is  sufficient  to  appease  the  wrath  of  God,  and  effect  a 
change  in  the  heart,  to  which  the  chastisement  of  ages 
would  be  incompetent  !  By  this  single  act,  which  is 
manifestly  an  act  of  terrour  upon  which  no  depend- 
ence can  be  made,  the  soul  becomes  instantly  puri- 
fied, as  by  a  charm,  and  is  prepared  for  the  enjoy- 
ment of  the  bliss  reserved  for  the  righteous  in  a 
kingdom  of  righteousness,  equally  with  those  who,  in 
humble  obedience  to  the  divine  commands,  have  been 
working  out  their  own  salvation  with  fear  and  trem- 
bling for  a  series  of  years,  through  numberless  trials, 
afflictions,  and  anxieties  of  heart  !  Nay,  so  omnipo- 
tent is  this  species  of  faith,  in  the  opinion  of  some 
divines,  that  wretches  who  have  been  notoriously 
placed  among  the  workers  of  iniquity  for  a  series  of 
years,  and  whose  atrocious  crimes  have,  perhaps, 
brought  them  to  a  premature  and  ignominious  death, 
will  be  received  by  the  holy  Jesus,  with  the  saluta- 
tion, '  Well  done,  thou  good  and  faithful  servant, 
enter  thou  into  the  joy  of  thy  Lord  !' 

"  Who  does  not  perceive  that  such  incongruities 
destroy  each  other  ?  That  those  who  are  most  alarm- 
ed at  the  tremendous  consequences  of  disbelieving 


this  doctrine,  have  invented  a  method  of  annihilating 
all  its  horrors?  Sudden  conversions,  eagerly  urged, 
and  as  eagerly  complied  with,  and  which  every  wick- 
ed man  will  thus  be  encouraged  to  expect,  will  not 
only  appease  the  wrath  of  God,  beyond  the  power  of 
endless  torments,  but  will  answer  all  the  purposes  of 
habitual  virtue  and  piety  !  Can  those  be  faithful, 
either  to  their  trust,  or  to  their  principles,  who,  after 
they  have  assiduously  fenced  round  the  holy  paradise 
of  God,  with  all  the  flames  of  hell,  that  nothing  which 
defileth  may  enter,  thus  encourage  miscreants  to 
break  through  the  flames,  that  they  may  place  them- 
selves at  the  right  hand  of  the  throne  of  the  Most 
High,  by  one  hasty  act  of  faith  ?" 

"  Again,  that  very  doctrine  which  is  supposed  to  be 
necessary  for  the  conversion  of  sinners,  occasions 
great  multitudes  to  continue  in  their  sins.  Those 
who  maintain  that  every  unbeliever  will  suffer  never- 
ending  misery,  should  be  peculiarly  cautious  not  to 
increase  their  number.  But  this  dogma  is  one  grand 
cause  of  infidelity,  and  exposes  the  unbeliever  to  all 
those  irregularities  which  infidelity  is  prone  to  author- 
ize. Men  who  are  taught  by  the  light  of  reason  to 
renounce  this  doctrine,  and  yet  are  taught  by  theo- 
logians, that  it  is  an  essential  article  of  the  Christian 
faith,  will  think  themselves  fully  justified  in  renounc- 
ing the  whole  of  Christianity.  The  rational  being 
who  admires  the  beauties  of  the  creation,  and  adores 
the  benevolence  which  is  there  displayed  towards  all 


men  indiscriminately,  is  astonished  that  the  very  God 
who  shows  so  much  indulgence  to  the  wicked,  in  the 
present  state,  should  be  represented  as  pouring  out 
the  vials  of  eternal  wrath  upon  them  in  a  future 
world,  under  a  dispensation  which  is  emphatically 
termed  a  covenant  of  grace  !  He  turns  from  such 
glad  tidings  of  great  joy  with  horrour  and  indignation  ; 
and  being  ignorant  of  the  true  design  of  Christianity, 
he  becomes  a  determined  unbeliever.  These  are 
historical  facts.  They  are  known  to  exist  in  every 
country  in  Europe.  They  will  increase  in  propor- 
tion as  the  minds  of  men  become  emancipated  from 
implicit  faith  in  their  spiritual  instructers,  and  they 
will  continue  until  the  Gospel  shall  appear  to  them, 
'  to  be  more  worthy  of  all  acceptation.' 

"  Finally,  we  must  remark  that  the  doctrine  of  the 
eternal  misery  of  the  wicked  is  very  inimical  to  those 
devout  affections,  which  it  is  our  duty  and  our  happi- 
ness to  cultivate  towards  the  God  of  transcendent 
excellence.  We  are  commanded  to  '  love  the  Lord 
our  God,  with  all  our  hearts,  with  all  our  souls,  with 
all  our  strength,  and  with  all  our  minds.'  These  are 
glowing  expressions,  uttered  by  him  who  was  in  the 
bosom  of  his  Father,  and  who  hath  revealed  him  unto 
us  ;  expressions  which  manifest  how  supremely  he 
deserves  our  love,  because  he  alone  is  supremely 
good.  It  is  the  attribute  of  essential  Goodness  on 
which  the  duty  is  founded  ;  it  is  this  which  renders  it 
a  most  rational  and  a  most  pleasant  duty.     But  is  it 


possible  for  those  to  perform  the  duty  aright,  and  to 
the  due  extent  of  the  grateful  feelings,  who  are  habit- 
uated by  their  creed  to  consider  the  author  of  their 
being  as  an  object  of  terrour  ?  We  cannot  love  whom 
we  please,  and  to  the  degree  that  we  please,  merely 
because  we  are  commanded.  Nor  can  the  affection 
be  called  forth  to  a  due  extent,  by  a  general  indefi- 
nite acknowledgment  that  he  is  good.  We  cannot 
feel  a  warm  affection  for  any  human  being,  or  an  ad- 
miration of  his  character,  until  we  are  made  acquaint- 
ed with  some  extraordinary  instances  of  his  superiori- 
ty ;  and  as  these  abound,  will  our  love  and  admira- 
tion increase. 

"  Thus  the  simple  proposition,  that  God  is  good, 
may  inspire  a  degree  of  respect,  but  it  will  not  arise 
to  the  ardour  of  love.  This  affection  must  be  called 
forth,  and  habitually  cherished,  by  incessant  manifes- 
tations of  operative  goodness.  The  more  numerous, 
extensive,  and  extraordinary  these,  the  more  liberal 
his  gifts,  the  more  condescending  his  compassion,  the 
more  conspicuous  his  exertions  for  the  diffusion  of 
extensive  happiness,  the  more  shall  we  feel  the  pro- 
priety of  the  duty  to  love  him  with  all  our  hearts,  and 
with  the  greater  facility  will  the  duty  be  practised. 
But  where  munificence  is  limited  by  hypothesis  to  a 
comparative  few,  and  infinite  severity  is  exercised 
upon  the  multitude,  without  the  intervention  of  wis- 
dom, or  power,  to  prevent  miseries  which  exceed  the 
most  vigorous  imagination,  men  may  attempt  to  love, 


and  they  may  resolve  to  check  feelings  of  an  opposite 
character  as  impious,  but  they  will  not  always  suc- 
ceed. Their  religious  tenets  leave  a  deficiency 
somewhere,  not  to  be  expected  in  the  character  and 
conduct  of  a  perfect  Being,  which  must  diminish  that 
exalted  admiration  they  are  solicitous  to  entertain. 

"  Moreover,  should  they  arrive  at  that  perfect  love 
which  casteth  out  fear,  it  is  upon  a  contracted,  selfish 
principle.  They  can  be  grateful  alone  for  personal 
favours,  and  admire  the  goodness  of  God  in  nothing 
so  much  as  in  his  partiality  to  themselves.  They  are 
justly  astonished  that  they  should  be  selected  from  the 
myriads  who  are  consigned  over  to  eternal  misery  ; 
and  there  is  nothing  to  admire  in  this,  but  a  sovereign 
act,  which  confounds  the  understanding ;  and  in 
which,  as  there  are  no  traces  of  wisdom,  there  can 
be  no  marks  of  respectability.  In  a  word,  it  is  incon- 
sistent with  the  nature  of  things,  and  with  the  very 
constitution  of  the  human  mind,  to  love  such  a  Being 
with  that  profound  veneration  and  ardour  of  devotion, 
which  are  due  to  the  wise  and  good  Parent  of  the 

"  We  are  also  commanded  to  love  our  neighbour 
as  ourselves.  But  does  this  love  harmonize  with  the 
gratitude  which  is  so  strongly  excited,  by  a  percep- 
tion that  others  will  be  eternally  excluded  from  the 
transcendent  blessings  we  are  to  enjoy  ?  Will  not  a 
generous  heart  feel  an  anxious  wish  that  others,  not 
less  deserving,  might  also  become  participants  ?    If  it 


feels  these  emotions,  it  must  also  feel  an  astonishment 
that  God  should  implant  them  in  the  heart  of  man, 
and  not  act  upon  so  worthy  a  principle  himself !  It 
must  perceive,  that  its  benevolent  dispositions  exceed 
those  which  we  ascribe  to  our  Maker  !  If  such  de- 
sires are  not  entertained,  then  is  the  heart  hardened 
by  the  system  ;  for  it  can  contemplate  the  eternal 
reprobation  of  the  millions  with  a  phlegmatic  indif- 
ference !  But  historical  facts  innumerable  inform  us, 
that  it  has  been  rendered  still  more  obdurate.  Mul- 
titudes have  enlisted  under  the  banner  of  persecution  ; 
have  hated  men,  because  they  supposed  them  to  be 
hated  by  God  ;  and  have  aspired  to  the  honour  of 
wielding  the  exterminating  sword,  which  was  to  send 
their  fellow  immortals  into  eternal  misery  !  How  dif- 
ferent the  sensations  excited  by  such  a  creed,  com- 
pared with  the  humble  and  benevolent  hope  of  that 
Christian,  who,  while  he  laments  that  the  wicked 
should  turn  away  from  their  duty  and  their  happiness, 
still  rejoices  that  his  God  is  their  God,  his  Redeemer, 
will  be  their  Redeemer ;  and  though  he  reflects,  with 
concern,  upon  the  misery  they  will  inevitably  bring 
upon  themselves,  he  enjoys  the  exquisite  consolation, 
that  their  sufferings  will  ultimately  prove  corrective  of 
their  vices.  What  motives  for  composure  and  resig- 
nation do  these  expectations  afford  to  the  sympathiz- 
ing friend,  to  the  affectionate  relative,  to  the  tender 
and  anxious  parent,  amidst  the  disorders  and  depravi- 
ties of  those  whom  they  love  !    The  mind  of  every 

230  REMARKS   ON    THE 

pious  Christian  will  learn  to  acquiesce  in  the  chastise- 
ments which  shall  prove  salutary ;  for  he  knows  that 
the  severest  judgments  will  be  inflicted  by  wisdom 
and  mercy  for  purposes  of  Good."* 

The  last  publication  of  Dr  Cogan's  which  we  shall 
notice,  though  the  first  in  the  order  of  time,  contains 
his  Letters  to  Wilberforce  on  the  Doctrine  of  Heredi* 
tary  Depravity ;  printed  at  first  without  the  author's 
name,  but  afterwards  acknowledged  by  him,  with  the 
declared  intention  of  enlarging  and  republishing  it  in 
a  collection  of  his  works,  as  a  part  of  the  series,  and 
to  complete  his  design.  As  it  is,  it  is  certainly  mark- 
ed with  more  of  his  excellences,  and  with  fewer  of 
his  faults,  than  any  other  of  his  writings.  It  is  a  most 
successful  application  of  the  same  general  principles, 
which  we  have  seen  running  through  all  his  philo- 
sophical, ethical,  and  theological  speculations,  to  the 
illustration  of  a  particular  doctrine  of  the  Gospel ;  or 
rather  to  the  detection  and  confutation  of  a  long  es- 
tablished and  pernicious  errour.  The  Treatise,  to 
which,  so  far  as  this  errour  is  concerned,  these  letters 
are  a  most  triumphant  reply,  certainly  possesses  high 
merits ;  but  theological  learning,  conclusiveness  of 
reasoning,  and  precision  of  language,  are  not  among 
the  number.  Dr  Cogan,  while  he  pays  a  due  respect 
to  the  virtues  and  piety  of  his  distinguished  opponent, 
proceeds  with  great  seriousness,  earnestness,  and  at 
times  with  great  eloquence  to  prove,  that  the  positions 

*  Ibid.  Part  III.     On  the  Probability  of  Universal  Salvation. 


which  he  has  taken,  respecting  original  sin,  are  wholly 
untenable  ;  absolutely  irreconcilable  with  the  Scrip- 
tures ;  with  our  conceptions  of  God  ;  with  facts;  with 
the  foundation  of  all  moral  distinctions ;  and  with  the 
constitution  of  the  human  mind. 

This  tract  may  be  recommended  with  a  more  en- 
tire satisfaction,  because,  in  addition  to  the  complete 
success  of  the  argument,  an  excellent  spirit  per- 
vades it ;  and  because  of  the  serious  and  religious 
direction  which  it  gives  to  our  thoughts.  It  is,  more- 
over, upon  a  subject  on  which  it  is  more  important, 
that  a  man  should  have  clear  and  correct  ideas,  than 
upon  any  other  in  the  whole  compass  of  speculative 
theology.  There  is  scarcely  an  errour  which  now 
exists,  or  ever  has  existed  in  the  church,  that  may 
not  be  traced  to  some  misapprehension  of  this  sub- 
ject, or  to  some  supposed  inference  from  it ;  that  has 
not  been  held  either  as  necessary  to  it,  or  as  support- 
ed by  it.  Destroy  this  unaccountable  delusion,  which 
has  possessed  and  still  possesses  so  many  minds,  re- 
specting the  moral  nature  of  man,  and  the  moral  con- 
dition into  which  he  is  born,  and  what  a  mass  of 
absurd  rites,  and  not  less  absurd  opinions,  which  the 
credulity  of  the  superstitious  or  the  craft  of  the  de- 
signing has  imposed  on  the  christian  world,  would  be 
left  without  foundation  or  apology  ? 

In    remarking,    generally,   on  Dr   Cogan's  merits 
as  a  writer  and  reasoner,  it  must  be  admitted,  that  his 
want  of  a  lucid  and  happy  arrangement,  his  perpetual 



repetitions,  and  his  vagueness  and  inaccuracy  of  ex- 
pression, often  indicating  vagueness  and  inaccuracy  of 
thought,  afford  frequent  and  serious  ground  of  com- 
plaint to  the  reader.  He  likewise  indulges  his  fond- 
ness for  the  analytical  mode  of  reasoning  to  an  ex- 
treme ;  treating  of  the  faculties  and  phenomena  of 
mind,  not  as  they  actually  exist  and  operate,  but  dis- 
jointedly  and  abstractedly.  The  consequence  of  which 
often  is,  that  he  leaves  his  readers  with  as  confused 
and  indistinct  a  conception  of  the  mind  itself,  and  its 
various  operations,  as  a  man  would  have  of  a  watch, 
who  had  never  seen  one  after  it  had  been  put  togeth- 
er, but  had  only  seen,  and  perhaps  heard  a  learned 
lecture  upon  the  several  parts  of  the  machinery,  after 
it  had  been  taken  to  pieces.  It  is  but  just,  however, 
to  observe,  that  our  author's  passion  for  analysis  and 
details  has  prevented  his  reasonings  from  being  much 
affected  by  his  general  biasses  in  favour  of  the  Hart- 
leian  school ;  which  might  otherwise  have  weakened 
not  a  little  the  confidence,  that  a  large  proportion  of 
his  readers  may  now  safely  repose  in  his  conclusions. 
After  all,  however,  it  is  the  fine  moral  effect  of  his 
writings,  which  constitutes  their  highest  recommenda- 
tion. It  is  the  harmony  which  they  prove  to  exist  be- 
tween knowledge  and  virtue,  between  reason  and 
faith,  between  perfect  obedience  and  perfect  happi- 
ness, that  stamps  upon  them  an  unspeakable  value, 
and  makes  it  impossible  for  any  one  to  read  them 
without  being  made  better.     After  being  taught  the 


intimate  and  necessary  connexion  of  our  passions  and 
affections  with  our  wellbeing,  it  is  impossible  that  we 
should  not  attend  more  to  their  due  regulation ;  after 
being  shown,  that  in  the  nature  of  things  complacency 
and  delight  must  attend  the  exercise  of  the  benevo- 
lent dispositions,  and  pain  and  misery  the  selfish  and 
malevolent,  it  is  impossible  that  we  should  not  be 
more  inclined  to  the  former;  after  being  convinced,  that 
every  event,  even  the  most  afflictive  and  inexplicable, 
tends  to  good,  that  all  is  from  God  and  for  good  to 
all,  it  is  impossible  that  we  should  not  be  more  cheer- 
fully acquiescent  in  the  dispensations  of  Infinite  Wis- 
dom ;  after  considering  the  admirable  adaptation  of 
all  our  circumstances  in  this  life  to  our  moral  condi- 
tion and  improvement,  and  the  whole  history  of  reve- 
lation to  the  onward  march  of  the  human  mind,  it  is 
impossible  not  to  discern  in  this  the  hand  of  God ;  and 
being  persuaded  that  it  is  the  religion  of  Jesus, 
which  alone  can  excite  and  employ  our  best  affec- 
tions, and  furnish  an  adequate  object  to  our  highest 
and  purest  hopes  and  expectations,  it  is  to  that  we 
shall  look  for  all  real  and  permanent  felicity  here,  and 
hereafter.  J.  W. 







The  writer  of  the  following  Letters  having  studied 
the  nature  and  genius  of  Christianity,  for  his  own  con- 
viction and  improvement,  has  long  been  satisfied  with 
such  ideas  of  it,  as  appeared  to  him  equally  true  and 
rational;  and  he  never  indulged  a  thought  of  becom- 
ing a  theological  controversialist,  until  the  great  popu- 
larity of  Mr  Wilberforce's  Practical  View  of  the 
prevailing  Religious  Systems  of  professed  Christians, 
excited  his  curiosity.  He  naturally  expected  some- 
thing new  and  forcible  from  so  distinguished  an  au- 
thor. He  was  greatly  disappointed ;  and  the  perusal 
of  that  celebrated  work,  instead  of  producing  the 
conviction  which  its  author  so  ardently  desires  to  be 
the  result,  suggested  to  his  mind  with  increased  force, 
the  numerous  objections  which  had  finally  induced 
him  to  strike  out  of  his  creed  a  tenet  in  which  he  had 
been  educated ;  and  was  taught  to  believe  of  the  high- 
est importance. 


It  might  have  been  expected  that  the  prevalence  of 
good  sense,  in  the  present  day,  and  more  accurate 
ideas  of  the  nature  of  justice  in  general,  and  of  the 
divine  benignity  in  particular,  would  have  committed 
such  a  doctrine  as  that  of  hereditary  guilt,  to  the  ob- 
livion it  deserves.  But  as  it  has  met  with  an  eloquent 
defender  in  the  person  of  Mr  Wilberforce,  the  errour 
may  acquire  new  strength  to  the  injury  of  genuine 
Christianity.  That  gentleman  is  zealous  in  support 
of  the  tenet,  because  he  considers  it  as  the  foundation 
of  all  religion,  and  peculiarly  of  the  christian  dispen- 
sation ;  his  opponent  is  equally  zealous  to  confute  it, 
from  a  conviction  that  true  Christianity  cannot  prevail 
until  this  so  great  a  stumblingblock,  and  some  oth- 
ers of  which  it  is  the  basis,  shall  be  removed.  The 
arguments  on  both  sides  are  now  before  the  public, 
and  it  is  for  them  to  decide  concerning  the  prepon- 
derancy  of  evidence. 




Confidence  with  which  the  Calvinistic  Tenet  of  De- 
pravity is  usually  asserted.  False  Modes  of  Rea- 
soning by  which  it  is  supported.  Leads  to  Skepti- 
cism. Sanctions  absurd  and  impossible  Doctrines. 
To  be  believed  only  by  rejecting  the  Dictates  of 
the  Understanding.  Harmony  between  Reason 
and  Scripture. 

It  must  afford  satisfaction  to  every  lover  of  virtue 
and  religion,  to  see  a  person  in  your  elevated  stRtion 
step  forth  from  amidst  the  luxury,  dissipation,  ambi- 
tion, and  irreligion  that  surround  him,  boldly  vindi- 
cate the  cause  which  he  deems  to  be  of  God,  and  enter 
his  protest  against  those  who  appear  to  be  a  disgrace 
to  the  religion  they  profess.  The  purity  of  your  mo- 
tives, the  fervour  of  your  zeal,  and  your  elegant 
classic  taste,  unite  to  inspire  you  with  a  captivating 

240  LETTERS    ON 

and  impressive  eloquence  ;  and  it  is  the  sincere  wish 
of  the  writer  of  these  Letters,  that  it  may  be  instru- 
mental in  exciting  the  minds  of  the  indolent  and  luke- 
warm, to  pay  more  attention  to  the  things  which 
relate  to  their  most  important  interests.  In  the  midst 
of  these  excellences,  every  attentive  reader  must  dis- 
cern essential  defects,  which  will  inevitably  render 
your  work  much  less  acceptable  and  useful  than  you 
ardently  desire.  He  will  perceive  that  the  whole  of 
your  diffuse,  but  eloquent  expostulation,  is  uniformly 
founded  upon  very  bold  assumptions.  You  appear 
so  eager  to  enforce  your  favourite  doctrines  upon  the 
minds  and  consciences  of  your  readers,  that  you  have 
not  given  yourself  sufficient  leisure  to  inform  us  upon 
what  principles  you  have  embraced  them ;  nor  have 
you  taken  sufficient  pains  to  prove  that  the  reception 
of  those  particular  doctrines  of  hereditary  depravity, 
the  atonement  of  Christ,  and  the  influence  of  the 
Spirit,  according  to  your  ideas  of  them,  is  peculiarly 
favourable  to  vital  religion  ;  or  the  rejection  of  them 
the  grand  cause  of  its  decline.  Yet  of  such  infinite 
moment  do  you  consider  these  doctrines,  that  they 
are  every  thing  to  you,  and  you  are  totus  in  Mis. 
Not  only  is  the  disbelief  of  them  the  cause  of  depra- 
vity of  manners,  but  it  is  an  indication  of  this  depra- 
vity ;  virtuous  conduct  is  suspicious,  unless  it  be  the 
result  of  your  principles ;  you  enter  a  solemn  protest 
against  sincerity  itself,  if  it  be  not  connected  with  the 
belief  of  them ;  and  the  cordial  reception  of  chris- 


tianity,  as  a  wise  and  beneficent  dispensation  from 
God,  will  convey  no  higher  title  than  that  of  a  nomi- 
nal christian.  Such  contracted  notions  could  not 
have  been  expected,  Sir,  from  a  person  of  your  edu- 
cation and  accomplishments  ;  they  properly  belong 
to  the  most  illiterate  proselytes  of  the  tabernacle. 
Do  you  not  perceive  that  the  censorious  temper  you 
have  thus  indulged,  must  be  extremely  offensive  to 
him  who  has  enjoined,  "judge  not,  that  ye  be  not 
judged  ?" — whose  Apostles,  in  the  spirit  of  their  mas- 
ter, admonish  not  to  speak  evil  of  another  ;  and  with 
a  well  adapted  degree  of  indignation,  inquire,  "  who 
art  thou  that  judgest  another?  to  his  own  master  he 
standeth  or  falleth  ?"  Is  not  this  conduct  inverting  the 
criterion  of  our  Saviour,  teaching  us,  not  to  judge  of 
the  tree  from  the  fruit ;  but  of  the  fruit  from  the  tree  ; 
and  condemning  all  as  of  a  noxious  quality,  that  is 
not  gathered  from  your  favourite  vineyard  ?  Are  you 
not  sensible  that  it  is  peculiarly  inconsistent  in  one 
who  endeavours,  throughout  the  whole  of  his  animat- 
ed performance,  to  inculcate  christian  humility,  and 
the  deepest  self-abasement  ?  Is  it  not  an  absurd  union 
of  the  penitent  publican's  humiliation,  with  the  pride 
of  the  pharisee  ?  While  you  recommend  the  language 
of  the  former,  "  Lord  be  merciful  to  me,  a  sinner  !" 
you  exclaim,  in  the  spirit  of  the  latter,  to  those  whose 
religious  opinions  do  not  reach  your  standard,  "  stand 
off  from  me,  for  I  am  holier  than  thou."  I  am  a 
real,  thou  art  but  a  nominal  christian  ! 


Sentiments  like  these,  which  pervade  your  work, 
ought  at  least  to  have  been  founded  on  the  clearest 
proofs,  not  only  that  the  doctrines  which  you  main- 
tain, are  of  a  truth  from  God  ;  but  that  he  has  de- 
cidedly enjoined  the  belief  of  them,  as  essential  to 
the  character  of  a  christian.  You  ought  also  to  have 
fully  demonstrated,  either  that  those  who  refuse  from 
principle  to  admit  these  doctrines,  are  more  immoral 
in  their  conduct,  than  those  of  your  own  persuasion, 
who  frequently  receive  them  implicitly  ;  or,  that  their 
opinions  contain  within  themselves  the  seeds  of  im- 
morality. You  should  have  proved  that  their  belief 
in  the  humanity  of  Christ,  teaches  them  to  reject  both 
his  example  and  his  precepts  ;  that  no  one  can  ac- 
ceptably apply  to  the  throne  of  grace,  for  the  pardon 
of  his  sins,  unless  he  has  exactly  the  same  ideas  with 
yourself,  concerning  the  mode  in  which  this  pardon 
will  be  imparted  ;  that  no  one  can  become  sanctified, 
without  embracing  your  particular  opinion  concerning 
the  nature  of  divine  influences;  and  that  every  man 
must  continue  dead  in  trespasses  and  sins,  unless  he 
repent  of  those  committed  before  he  was  born.  You 
lament  that  the  doctrines  for  which  you  are  so  zealous 
an  advocate,  have  lost  much  of  their  power  over  those 
who  embrace  them.  If  you  had  inquired  into  the 
cause  of  this  indifference,  you  might  perhaps  have 
discovered  the  cause  of  that  general  depravity  you 
bewail,  without  stigmatizing  a  class  of  people,  of 
whom,  as  it  clearly  appears,  you  are  totally  ignorant  ; 



or  indulging  in  the  reprehension  of  opinions  which 
you  have  not  refuted.  The  professors  of  the  high 
Calvinistic  tenets  have  frequently  been  accused  of  an 
illiberal  and  censorious  spirit;  it  would  have  been 
peculiarly  exemplary,  in  a  person  of  your  talents  and 
your  influence,  not  to  have  patronised  the  disposition, 
or  given  it  so  great  a  sanction  by  your  own  conduct. 
It  might  at  least  have  been  expected,  that  the  severe 
sentence  from  your  tribunal  would  have  been  pre- 
ceded by  the  full  detection  of  dangerous  errours,  or 
particular  criminality  of  behaviour,  in  the  party  you 

You  have  not  pursued  this  line  of  conduct.  The 
doctrines  of  the  atonement  and  influence  of  the  Spirit 
are  introduced  and  enlarged  upon  with  all  the  confi- 
dence attendant  upon  implicit  faith.  Not  an  argu- 
ment is  brought  forward  in  support  of  these  doctrines, 
though  you  deem  it  so  fatal  to  deny  them.  You 
have  indeed  made  some  cursory  observations  in  proof 
of  hereditary  depravity ;  but  these  are  by  no  means 
adequate  to  the  importance  you  ascribe  to  that  tenet, 
which  you  represent  as  lying  at  the  root  of  all  reli- 
gion, and  still  more,  as  being  eminently  the  basis 
and  groundwork  of  true  Christianity.  Surely,  Sir,  a 
tenet  which  you  deem  so  peculiarly  important,  the 
principles  of  which  pervade  your  whole  system  of  re- 
ligion, should  have  been  established  by  all  the  force 
of  reason,  so  that  scarcely  a  doubt  could  remain,  be- 
fore you  enforce  it,  as  of  the  utmost  moment,  with  all 
the  powers  of  your  eloquence. 


After  giving  a  very  lively  and  very  just  portrait  of 
the  vices  and  depravities  with  which  mankind  have 
been  chargeable  in  every  age  and  nation,  even  under 
circumstances  the  most  advantageous  to  virtue  and 
religion,  you  inquire,  "  How,  can  we  account  for  the 
contrast  between  the  actual  state  of  man,  and  that  for 
which,  from  a  consideration  of  his  natural  powers,  he 
seems  to  have  been  originally  calculated  ?  How  on 
any  principles  of  common  reasoning,  can  we  account 
for  it,  but  by  conceiving  that  man,  since  he  came  out 
of  the  hands  of  his  Creator,  has  contracted  a  taint ; 
and  that  the  venom  of  this  subtle  poison  has  been 
communicated  throughout  the  race  of  Adam,  every 
where  exhibiting  incontestable  marks  of  its  fatal  malig- 
nity ?"  You  proceed  to  trace  the  progress  of  depravi- 
ty, in  a  manner  perfectly  unexceptionable,  and  then 
resume  the  query,  "  How  can  this  be  accounted  for 
on  any  other  supposition,  than  that  of  some  original 
taint,  some  radical  principle  of  corruption  ?  All 
other  solutions  are  unsatisfactory,  whilst  the  potent 
cause  which  has  been  assigned  does  abundantly,  and 
can  alone  sufficiently,  account  for  the  effect."  You 
proceed  to  assert,  "  that  the  corruption  of  human 
nature  is  proved  by  the  same  mode  of  reasoning  as 
has  been  deemed  conclusive  in  establishing  the  exist- 
ence, and  ascertaining  the  laws  of  the  principle  of 
gravitation ;  that  the  doctrine  rests  upon  the  same 
solid  basis  as  the  sublime  philosophy  of  Newton  ;  that 
it  is  not  a  speculation,  and  therefore  an  uncertain, 


though,  perhaps,  an  ingenious  theory,  but  the  sure 
result  of  large  and  actual  experiment,  deduced  from 
incontestible  facts,  and  still  more  fully  approving  its 
truth  by  harmonizing  with  the  several  parts,  and  ac- 
counting for  the  various  phenomena,  jarring  otherwise 
and  inexplicable,  of  the  great  system  of  the  universe." 
There  never  was,  perhaps,  a  more  singular  instance 
of  bewildered  and  bewildering  sophistry,  than  that 
contained  in  the  above  paragraph.  You  begin  with 
modestly  forming  a  conjecture  ;  you  conceive,  from 
the  contrast  between  the  actual  state  of  man,  and 
that  for  which  he  seems  to  have  been  originally  in- 
tended, that  man,  since  he  came  out  of  the  hands  of 
his  Creator,  has  contracted  a  taint ;  and  that,  as  you 
express  it  in  another  place,  not  slightly  and  superfi- 
cially, but  radically,  and  to  the  very  core.  But  cres- 
cit  eundo  ;  having  thus  formed  an  humble  conjecture, 
you  become  immediately  certain  of  its  truth  ;  for  you 
assert  that  this  subtle  poison  exhibits  every  where  in- 
contestible marks  of  its  malignity.  Advanced  thus 
far  you  grow  still  bolder,  for  you  positively  affirm, 
that  this  potent  cause  assigned  can  alone  sufficiently 
account  for  the  effect ;  and  immediately  proceeding 
to  raise  what  wTas  at  first  simply  a  modest  and  diffi- 
dent conception  to  an  equality  with  strict  demonstra- 
tion, you  attempt  to  place  it  upon  a  basis  of  equal 
solidity  with  the  discoveries  of  the  immortal  Newton. 
Do  you  not  observe,  that  in  the  impetuosity  of  your 
zeal,  you  have  confounded  your  solution  of  the  diffi- 



culty  with  the  facts  which  gave  rise  to  the  difficulty ; 
and,  dexterously  blending  the  degeneracy  of  man 
with  the  cause  you  assign,  you  precipitately  conclude, 
that  whoever  admits  the  former,  must  admit  the  lat- 
ter ?  Your  assertion,  that  there  can  be  no  other  cause, 
is  extremely  bold ;  it  necessarily  implies  either  that, 
if  you  cannot  find  out  any  other  solution,  no  one  can  ; 
or  that,  because  it  has  not  been  discovered  to  your 
satisfaction  already,  it  never  can  be.  Positions  as 
inadmissible  as  they  are  inconsistent  with  that  tone  of 
diffidence,  with  which  you  introduce  the  subject. 

Permit  me,  Sir,  to  observe,  that  if  the  hypothesis 
of  that  great  philosopher  had  not  been  better  founded 
than  the  one  you  propose,  it  would  long  ago  have 
been  buried  in  oblivion  ;  unless  it  had  been  sanction- 
ed by  established  creeds,  or  supported  by  the  dread 
of  disbelieving  it.  Sir  Isaac  observed  one  body  to 
fall  towards  another.  This  he  discovered,  by  subse- 
quent observations  and  experiments,  to  be  a  principle 
common  to  all  bodies  ;  and  he  called  it  gravitation. 
The  principle  being  obtained,  he  investigated  its  laws, 
until,  by  experiments,  observations,  and  inferences, 
he  found  himself  able  to  explain  every  leading  phe- 
nomenon of  nature  by  it ;  as  you  express  it,  approv- 
ing the  truth  of  his  theory  by  its  harmonizing  with 
the  several  parts,  and  accounting  for  the  various  phe- 
nomena, jarring  otherwise  and  inexplicable,  of  the 
great  system  of  the  universe.  But  where  is  the 
parallel  ?    Yours  is  simply  a  conjecture  to  explain  a 


seeming  phenomenon.  You  assert  that  it  cannot  be 
resolved  in  any  other  way,  and  triumph  in  a  complete 
demonstration  of  the  point  in  question  !  Is  this  New- 
tonian ?  Again,  the  hypothesis  of  the  philosopher  con- 
tradicts no  one  principle  of  natural  reason ;  it  is  not 
attended  with  consequences,  which  reflect  dishonour 
upon  any  of  the  divine  attributes.  Your  hypothesis 
harmonizes  nothing  ;  it  contradicts  the  first  principles 
of  reason,  plunges  the  mind  into  much  greater  diffi- 
culties than  those  which  it  attempts  to  solve,  and 
leads  to  consequences  so  absurd  and  impious,  that 
every  prudent  man  will  rather  sit  down  in  perfect 
ignorance,  leaving  the  phenomena  unexplained,  than 
venture  to  admit  it. 

Excepting  we  admit  strong  expressions  and  posi- 
tive assertions  in  the  place  of  argument,  all  that  you 
have  advanced  proves  nothing  more,  than  that  the 
human  mind  is  very  capable  of  becoming  depraved  ; 
that  the  will  and  affections  may,  and  frequently  do, 
take  a  pernicious  turn  ;  that  perverse  inclinations 
and  atrocious  conduct  may  become  habitual  in  the 
individual,  until  every  good  principle  shall  seem  to 
be  extinguished  ;  that  these  may  be,  and  frequently 
are,  rendered  contagious  by  the  force  of  evil  example, 
or  in  consequence  of  that  sympathy  in  our  natures 
which  disposes  to  imitation,  whether  the  model  be 
good  or  evil,  until  the  accumulation  of  vice  and  pro- 
faneness  shall  exceed  all  calculation,  or  even  the 
power  of  reform.  This  seems  to  have  been  the  state 

248  LETTERS    ON 

of  the  antediluvian  world,  when  all  "flesh  had  corrupt- 
ed his  way  on  the  earth,"  so  that  "  every  imagination 
of  the  thoughts  of  his  heart  was  only  evil  continual- 
ly, and  it  repented  the  Lord  that  he  had  made  man 
on  the  earth."  The  mind  once  perverted  may  be 
rendered  capable  of  every  excess  ;  and  an  assem- 
blage of  perverted  minds  may  operate  like  a  pesti- 
lence. But  as  a  physical  pestilence  arises  from  putrid 
miasmata,  or  noxious  changes,  which  incidentally  take 
place  in  bodies  originally  free  from  noxious  qualities, 
why  may  not  a  moral  pestilence  be  communicated  to 
minds  originally  pure,  free  from  any  original  taint,  or 
inherent  hereditary  disposition  to  sin  f 

To  this  very  superficial  and  illogical  mode  of  rea- 
soning, you  have  subjoined  a  number  of  scriptural 
passages,  some  of  which,  as  has  been  judiciously 
remarked,  cannot  be  admitted  in  evidence  ;*  and  the 
others  amount  to  no  more  than  strong  representations 
and  pathetic  lamentations  of  human  degeneracy, 
without  pretending  to  ascribe  it  to  the  cause  you 

A  full  confidence  in  your  demonstration  has  in- 
spired you  with  courage  to  state  a  very  formidable 
objection  in  all.  its  force.  You  represent  some  bold 
objector  as  pleading,  "  Whatever  I  am,  I  am  what 
my  Creator  made  me.  I  inherit  a  nature,  you  your- 
self confess,  depraved  and  prone  to  evil ;  how  then 

*  Sec  a  Review  of  Mr  Wilberforce's  Treatise,  by  the  Rev.  Thomas 



can  I  withstand  the  temptations  to  sin  by  which  I  am 
environed?  If  this  plea  cannot  establish  my  innocence, 
it  must  excuse,  at  least  attenuate  my  guilt.  Frail  and 
weak  as  I  am,  a  being  of  infinite  justice  and  good- 
ness will  never  try  me  by  a  rule,  which,  however 
equitable  in  the  case  of  creatures  of  a  higher  nature, 
is  altogether  disproportionate  to  mine." 

As  this  potent  objection  is  so  fairly  stated,  it  was 
natural  to  expect  that  you  had  discovered  some  new 
mode  of  confutation  that  you  possessed  some  reserve 
of  arguments  that  should  stagger  the  bold  objector 
himself,  if  not  demonstrate  the  fallacy  of  his  rea- 
soning to  others ;  but  your  answer  is  so  evasive  and 
unsatisfactory,  that  he  will  certainly  retain  all  his 
boldness ;  and  probably  his  confidence  in  the  force  of 
his  objection  will  be  increased.  Nay,  you  have  ex- 
hibited a  melancholy  specimen  of  the  subterfuges,  to 
which  an  ingenious  and  ingenuous  mind  will  have 
recourse,  in  order  to  weaken  the  force  of  the  strongest 
arguments  against  a  favourite  hypothesis.  To  submit 
your  mode  of  reasoning  to  a  critical  examination,'  and 
confute  your  positions  step  by  step,  would  be  a  prolix, 
though  a  very  easy  employment.  A  few  observations 
will  suffice. 

You  first  place  this  objection  in  the  mouth  of  a 
skeptic,  and  confess,  that  "  although  it  may  not  be 
difficult  to  expose  the  futility  of  his  reasoning,  you 
should  almost  despair  of  satisfying  him  of  the  sound- 
ness  of   your  own."      Your  leading  argument  with 

250  LETTERS    ON 

him  would  be  to  show,  that  as  "  his  pre-conceptions 
concerning  the  conduct  of  the  Supreme  Being  had 
been  in  fact  contradicted,  particularly  by  the  exist- 
ence at  all  of  natural  or  moral  evil ;  and  thus  proved 
erroneous  in  one  instance,  why  may  they  not  be  so 
likewise  in  another  ?"  But  as  you  could  only  expect 
to  silence,  not  to  convince  him  by  this  query,  you 
would  "  attempt  to  draw  him  off  from  those  dark  and 
slippery  regions,  and  contend  with  him  on  sure 
grounds."  Instead  of  giving  a  direct  answer  to  the 
objection,  your  plan  is  to  take  the  "high  priori  road" 
to  prove  the  truth  and  importance  of  the  christian  reli- 
gion, and  then  to  enforce  the  necessity  of  submitting 
reason  and  judgment  to  whatever  may  be  taught  in 
the  sacred  writings  concerning  this  and  every  other 
point  in  dispute.  In  consequence  of  this  mode,  you 
would  urge  upon  him  the  following  contrarieties;  "the 
justice  and  goodness  of  the  Supreme  Being  ;  the  na- 
tural depravity  of  man — but  that  this  natural  depravity 
shall  never  be  admitted  as  an  excuse  for  sin  ;  and  that 
neither  our  sins,  nor  the  dreadful  consequences  of 
them,  are  to  be  chargeable  upon  God."  You  strenu- 
ously inculcate  "  that  this  corruption  and  weakness 
will  not  be  admitted  as  lowering  the  demands  of 
divine  justice,  and  in  some  degree  palliating  our  trans- 
gressions of  the  law  of  God."  And  thus  is  the  skeptic 
completely  refuted.  To  the  christian  it  is  recom- 
mended to  silence  his  doubts,  by  the  consideration 
that  if  our  natural  condition  be  depraved  and  weak, 


our  temptations  numerous,  and  our  Almighty  Judge 
infinitely  holy,  yet  that  the  offers  to  penitent  sinners 
of  pardon,  and  grace,  and  strength,  are  universal  and 
unlimited.*  You  acknowledge,  however,  that  there 
are  difficulties  attending  the  subject  above  and  beyond 
our  comprehension  ;  and  you  attempt  to  soften  this 
acknowledged  truth,  by  observing  that  there  is  scarce- 
ly an  object  around  us,  that  does  not  afford  endless 
matter  of  doubt  and  argument.  The  meanest  reptile 
which  crawls  on  the  earth,  nay,  every  herb  and  flower 
which  we  behold,  baffles  the  imbecility  of  our  limited 

It  is  very  apparent  from  the  above  concise,  but 
faithful  statement  of  your  mode  of  treating  the  sub- 
ject, that  the   objection  itself   is  insurmountable  by 

*  This  species  of  indemnification,  you  hold  out  to  the  penitent 
christian,  is  a  kind  of  confession,  that  those  who  are  necessitated  to 
remain  impenitent,  have  a  right  to  claim  it  also  ;  or  at  least  that 
they  are  treated  with  a  severity  which  approaches  to  injustice;  unless 
you  suppose  that  no  injustice  can  be  committed  to  the  non-elect,  as 
the  bigotted  Catholic  maintains  that  no  faith  is  to  be  kept  with 
heretics.  The  terms  unlimited  and  universal,  inspire,  at  first  glance, 
an  idea  worthy  of  Divinity  ;  but  being  systematically  interpreted, 
they  become  both  limited  and  partial.  They  can  only  refer  to  the 
number  and  magnitude  of  sins  that  have  been  committed  in  an  un- 
converted state,  and  to  the  aid  promised  to  the  few  who  have  been 
converted  by  the  Spirit  of  God.  Thus  what  you  call  grace,  those 
who  are  without  the  sphere  of  its  influence  will  inevitably  call  ■par- 
tiality ;  and  the  more  universal  and  unlimited  the  pardon  granted  to 
chosen  favourites,  the  more  striking  will  the  contrast  appear  to  those 
who  are  doomed  to  remain  under  the  burden  of  Adam's  sins,  as  well 
as  their  own. 

252  LETTERS    ON 

any  powers  of  human  reason,  and  therefore  that  an 
absolute  veto  must  be  put  upon  these  reasoning  pow- 
ers ;  nay,  you  deem  it  "  an  awful  and  affecting 
spectacle  to  see  men  thus  busying  themselves  in  these 
vain  speculations  of  an  arrogant  curiosity,  and  trifling 
with  their  dearest,  their  everlasting  interests." 

How  is  it  possible,  my  good  Sir,  for  a  man  of  your 
sense  to  argue  so  superficially  and  so  inconsistently? 
To  consider  a  question  upon  which  so  much  depends, 
as  a  vain  speculation  of  arrogant  curiosity,  and  tri- 
fling with  our  dearest  interests  .?  You  have  placed  the 
doctrine  of  an  hereditary  taint  at  the  foundation  of 
all  religion  ;  you  render  the  belief  of  it  of  equal  im- 
portance with  the  belief  of  Christianity  itself;  and 
yet  you  treat  it  as  a  vain  speculation  !  Others  strong- 
ly suspect,  that  it  is  neither  scriptural  nor  rational, 
and  they  are  convinced  that  the  moral  attributes  of 
Divinity  are  deeply  concerned  in  the  contest ;  to 
make  inquiry  into  its  truth,  therefore,  cannot  pro- 
ceed from  arrogant  curiosity,  nor  can  it  be  trifling 
with  their  dearest  interests.  It  is  this  interest,  Sir, 
that  warmly  induces  them  to  search  after  the  truth, 
as  it  is  indeed  in  Jesus,  that  they  may  not  rashly  re- 
ceive for  doctrines  the  commandments  of  men.  Since 
the  Deity  has  endued  our  minds  with  discriminating 
powers,  he  not  only  permits,  but  requires  their  exer- 
tion upon  subjects  most  worthy  of  them.  Therefore, 
unterrified  with  the  awfulness  of  the  spectacle,  we 
shall  proceed  to  examine  the  validity  of  your  argu- 


ments  in  opposition  to  the   formidable  objection  that 
has  been  stated. 

It  might  be  asserted,  that  your  first  and  leading 
argument,  if  it  were  admitted,  would  prove  too  much  ; 
that  it  opens  the  door  for  an  unlimited  extent  of  evil ; 
and,  carried  to  its  excess,  would  leave  it  indifferent 
to  the  wretched  inhabitants  of  the  universe,  whether  a 
being,  nominally  beneficent,  or  nominally  malevolent, 
presided  over  their  lot.  Your  objector  will,  therefore, 
claim  a  right  to  urge,  that  there  must  be  some  limit- 
ation of  this  evil  under  the  empire  of  a  Being  essen- 
tially good,  or  the  conduct  of  both  would  be  exactly 
similar.  He  will  suggest,  that  the  existence  of  evil, 
both  natural  and  moral,  to  a  certain  extent,  may  be 
an  indispensable  law  in  the  constitution  of  limited  and 
imperfect  beings  ;  that  natural  evil  may  become  bene- 
ficial to  the  sufferer  himself,  and  that  the  temporary 
permission  of  both  may  be  productive  of  good  to  a 
much  greater  degree  than  could  be  obtained  without 
it.  He  will  advance,  that  the  greatest  sufferings  that 
have  been  inflicted  cannot  be  deemed  unjust,  when 
they  have  not  been  inflicted  beyond  the  claims  or 
deserts  of  the  sufferer,  and  where  a  power  of  indem- 
nification is  reserved  in  the  hands  of  the  Almighty. 
He  will  tell  you,  that  your  position  represents  the 
divine  conduct  in  the  admission  of  evil,  to  be  arbitra- 
ry and  unlimited.  It  proposes  no  other  rule  of  action 
than  the  Sic  volo,  sic  jubeo,  stat  pro  ratione  voluntas. 
It  renders  human  beings  natively  vile  and  wretched ; 


it  represents  vindictive  justice  as  punishing,  to  the 
utmost  extent  of  severity,  this  inevitable  cast  of  cha- 
racter, without  a  ray  of  hope  or  power  of  alleviation. 
He  will  remind  you,  that  although  it  is  not  inconsistent 
with  the  character  of  a  wise  and  good  parent  to  inflict 
a  certain  degree  of  suffering  upon  his  offspring,  yet 
no  wise  and  good  parent  will  render  them  completely 
miserable.  He  may  administer  a  bitter  potion,  and 
retain  his  reputation,  but  he  cannot  administer  poison. 
His  right  to  correct  the  faults  of  character  or  of  con- 
duct observable  in  a  child,  by  severe  chastisement, 
will  convey  no  title  to  render  the  whole  of  his  exist- 
ence a  curse  on  accession  of  infirmities,  which  could 
not  have  been  avoided. 

The  other  mode  you  recommend,  that  of  proving 
the  truth  and  importance  of  the  christian  religion, 
and  then  insisting  on  the  necessity  of  receiving  this, 
and  other  peculiar  doctrines,  as  an  essential  part  of 
the  christian's  creed,  does  not  promise  greater  suc- 
cess. Your  objector  dares  to  reason  farther  than 
yourself;  and  it  will  be  difficult  to  call  forth  all  his 
reasoning  powers  till  you  have  gained  this  happy 
point  of  conviction,  and  then  check  and  prohibit  their 
future  operations.  He  will  expect,  that  the  evidences 
of  the  truth  of  Christianity  shall  be  succeeded  by  the 
evidence  of  its  excellence  ;  and  when  he  finds  a  num- 
ber of  doctrines  proposed  to  him,  inconsistent  with 
that  reason  you  have  permitted  him  to  exercise,  he 
will  feel  himself  disconcerted  and  embarrassed.     He 


will  examine  the  nature  of  these  doctrines ;  if  he  dis- 
cover them  to  be  inconsistent  with  the  attributes  of 
Deity,  while  he  still  believes  them  essential  to  Chris- 
tianity, there  is  great  danger  of  his  rejecting  Chris- 
tianity itself.  He  will  argue,  that  although  the  force 
of  testimony  be  strongly  in  favour  of  the  existence, 
character,  mission,  resurrection  of  Jesus,  the  internal 
evidence  is  so  directly  contrary  to  the  honourable 
ideas  we  ought  to  entertain  of  the  Divinity  ;  the  doc- 
trines it  inculcates  are  so  revolting,  that  my  reason 
teaches  me  to  withhold  my  assent.  I  had  rather  be- 
lieve human  testimony  to  be  deceitful,  however  strong- 
ly supported,  than  I  will  believe  the  contradictions, 
you  enforce  upon  me.  If,  on  the  contrary,  he  should 
suspect  that  these  doctrines  are  not  of  God,  and 
should  find  upon  inquiry,  that  they  are  the  mere  in- 
ventions of  men,  who  have  given  an  artificial  import- 
ance to  their  crude  conceptions,  and  guarded,  with 
all  the  terrours  of  a  gloomy  imagination,  sentiments 
which  cannot  bear  the  light  of  reason,  he  may  remain 
a  sincere  believer  in  Christianity. 

These,  Sir,  are  not  mere  speculative  probabilities ; 
each  process  has  been  frequently  repeated.  Inquisi- 
tive students  in  theology  have,  in  numerous  instances, 
either  relinquished  the  doctrines  you  deem  peculiar 
to  Christianity,  or  they  have  relinquished  Christianity 
altogether.  Admitting  that  the  atrocities  lately  com- 
mitted in  a  neighbouring  nation  proceed  entirely  from 
infidelity,  it  may  be  fairly  concluded,  that  this  infi- 

256  LETTERS   ON 

delity  is  to  be  ascribed  to  the  absurdities  of  their  na- 
tional  creed.     These   they  have   been   taught  from 
their  infancy  to  venerate  as  the  essential  doctrines  of 
Christianity ;  but  as  soon  as  reason  began  to  dawn, 
not  being  accustomed  to  view  the  religion  of  Jesus 
through  any  other  medium,  and  totally  unable  to  dis- 
criminate truth  from  errour,  they  have  rejected  the 
whole.     May  we  not  also  add,  that  the  unworthy  con- 
ceptions of  Deity,  which  the  professors  of  so  bigotted 
a  religion  must  inevitably  entertain,  the  terrific  repre- 
sentations of  the   divine   character,   the   trifling   and 
ridiculous  methods  enjoined  to  appease  his  wrath  and 
obtain  his  favour,  have  contributed  no  small  share  to 
the  spread  of  atheism.     Vain  philosophy  has  hastily 
concluded,  that  to  banish  such  a  Being  from  the  mind 
was  doing  service  to   humanity ;   and  the  populace 
naturally  became  very  indifferent  about  his  existence. 
In  like  manner  may  we  attribute  much  of  the  incredu- 
lity discoverable  among  protestants,  to  the  exception- 
ablet  enets  still  remaining  in  the  creeds  and  confess- 
ions of  churches    which    call  themselves  reformed. 
To  the  thoughtless  and  indifferent  they  serve   as  a 
pretext,  while  they  disgust  the  considerate,  and  in- 
duce them  rashly  to  exclaim,  If  this  be  your  Chris- 
tianity, it  cannot  be  from  above. 

On  the  other  hand,  there  are  also  many  instances 
of  persons  in  whom  a  religious  temper  and  the  power 
of  discrimination  are  happily  united,  and  who  know 
how  to  separate  the  chaff  from  the  wheat.     There 



are  many  who  have  been  converted  to  the  belief  of  a 
gospel,  purged  of  its  impurities,  who  thought  it  not 
worthy  of  credit  in  its  impure  state.  There  are  many 
others  who  were  educated  after  the  strictest  sect  of 
our  religion,  or  in  the  doctrines  of  Calvinism,  who 
have  been  able,  upon  the  closest  examination,  to 
separate  truth  from  errour,  the  word  of  God  from  the 
additions,  false  conceptions,  and  impositions  of  men  ; 
whose  faith  in  the  truth  and  importance  of  Christian- 
ity has  been  confirmed,  by  discovering  that  tenets  the 
most  objectionable,  were  not  Christianity.  These, 
Sir,  have  joyfully  stopped  at  the  half-way  house  you 
have  mentioned  with  contempt.  They  find  it  pleas- 
antly situated  between  the  dreary  and  barren  wastes 
of  infidelity,  on  the  one  hand,  and  the  gloomy  regions 
of  false  theology  on  the  other.  Here  they  meet  with 
rationality  in  amity  with  religion  ;  they  rejoice  in  a 
station  where  the  mind  can  indulge  hope  and  confi- 
dence in  its  God,  without  the  injunction  of  sacrificing 
their  reason  ;  and,  Sir,  without  flattery,  they  would 
feel  themselves  highly  gratified  were  you  to  join  the 
society.  One  circumstance  renders  them  peculiarly 
worthy  of  your  notice  ;  the  ablest  defenders  of  Chris- 
tianity are  to  be  found  in  this  very  class,  to  which  you 
have  been  reluctant  to  give  the  full  title  of  Christians. 
Had  it  not  been  for  their  labours,  the  absurdities  of 
systems  like  yours  would  have  completely  banished 
religion  from  among  us,  and  have  deluged  this  coun- 
try also  with  the  torrents  of  infidelity.     They  have 


long  stood  in  the  breach,  and  fought  your  battles, 
though,  as  it  appears,  without  receiving  the  puny  re- 
ward of  "  honourable  mention." 

It  is  easy  to  perceive  from  another  observation  you 
make,  that  your  extreme  embarrassment,  respecting 
this  acknowledged  difficulty,  has  led  you  to  blend 
and  confound  things  inexplicable  with  things  contra- 
dictory ;  ideas  perfectly  distinct.  "  There  is  scarce- 
ly an  object  around  us,"  you  say,  "  that  does  not  afford 
endless  matter  of  doubt  and  argument.  The  meanest 
reptile  that  crawls  upon  the  earth,  nay,  every  herb 
and  flower  which  we  behold,  baffles  the  imbecility  of 
our  limited  inquiries."  It  is  readily  acknowledged, 
that  we  cannot  comprehend  many  things  respecting 
these.  We  know  not  what  constitutes  animal  or 
vegetable  life,  whence  the  powers  and  properties  of 
each  class,  or  what  occasions  the  diversities  they  pos- 
sess. But  we  know  that  this  life,  its  laws,  its  diversi- 
ties, its  final  cause, — the  diffusion  of  enjoyment, — 
manifest  the  power,  the  wisdom,  and  the  goodness  of 
the  great  Author  of  life.  When  it  can  be  shown,  that 
God  created  the  meanest  reptile,  either  with  a  deter- 
mination to  render  it  miserable,  or  with  a  prescience 
of  its  misery  ;  when  it  can  be  proved,  that  the  present 
race  of  reptiles  receive  disgrace,  and  become  heirs  of 
endless  misery,  for  some  misconduct  of  their  parent 
reptile,  the  cases  will  become  parallel.  Then  also 
will  wisdom  and  goodness  vanish  from  our  sight,  and 
power  alone,  arbitrary  and  tyrannical,  be  left  for  our 


contemplation.  Then  also  will  those,  who  should 
embrace  the  extravagant  hypothesis,  find  themselves 
embarrassed  in  inexplicable  difficulties,  in  attempting 
to  reconcile  palpable  contradictions. 

Permit  me  further  to  observe,  as  no  unimportant 
addition  to  the  above,  that  unless  you  relinquish  your 
argument,  you  will  be  compelled  to  increase  the  num- 
ber of  articles  in  your  faith  ;  for  your  mode  of  rea- 
soning is  equally  applicable  to  the  vindication  of  some 
doctrines  which  you  deny  ;  and  these  also  must  be 
received,  unless  you  acknowledge  its  futility  respect- 
ing those  you  admit.  How  would  you  be  able  to 
confute  the  doctrine  of  transubstantiation  upon  your 
principles,  in  a  controversy  with  a  Roman  Catholic  ? 
He  asserts  most  positively,  that  the  doctrine  is  taught 
in  the  sacred  Scriptures  ;  holds  its  belief  necessary 
to  salvation ;  terms  those  mere  nominal  christians 
who  deny  it ;  and  laments  the  degeneracy  of  the 
times  in  which  such  an  important  truth  is  visibly  upon 
the  decline.  You  are  now  the  bold  objector ;  you 
advance,  that  the  expressions  in  Scripture  require  no 
such  interpretation,  and  that  the  doctrine  is  absurd 
in  itself.  He  concedes,  that  considerable  difficulties 
surround  it,  and  that  the  objection  cannot  be  satis- 
factorily answered  by  a  direct  appeal  to  reason.  He 
resolves  to  draw  you  off  from  these  dark  and  slippery 
regions,  and  contend  with  you  on  sure  grounds. 
Supposing  you  to  be  a  skeptic,  he  will  commence  by 
proving  the  truth  of  the  christian  religion ;  if  you 

260  LETTERS    ON 

acknowledge  the  Scnptures,  he  will  charge  you  with 
inconsistency  and  irreligion  in  not  believing  all  that 
the  Scriptures  contain.  The  expressions,  he  urges, 
are  absolute  ;  this  is  my  body  broken  for  you  ;  this 
cup  is  my  blood.  You  are  not  to  oppose  the  imper- 
tinence of  your  reason,  or  the  imbecility  of  your  in- 
quiries, to  the  express  declarations  of  Christ. 

Should  you  yield  to  the  force  of  his  argument,  an 
Anthropomorphite  presents  himself.  He  tells  you, 
that  passages  innumerable  prove,  beyond  dispute,  that 
the  Supreme  Being  has  bodily  organs  ;  urges  that 
the  Scriptures  repeatedly  mention  the  hands  of  the 
Lord,  the  eyes  of  the  Lord ;  that  they  speak  of  the 
breath  of  his  nostrils,  of  his  voice,  and  declare  that  the 
earth  is  literally  his  footstool.  You  allege,  that  these 
are  merely  figurative  expressions.  He  contradicts 
the  assertion.  You  maintain,  that  his  doctrine  mili- 
tates against  the  spirituality  of  the  divine  nature.  He 
admits  this  spirituality,  but  he  will  not  relinquish 
his  tenet.  He  allows  the  subject  to  be  difficult,  at- 
tempts to  soften  the  difficulty  by  suggesting  that  every 
reptile,  and  every  flower  baffles  the  imbecility  of  our 
inquiries  ;  that  there  is  scarcely  an  object  that  does 
not  afford  endless  matter  for  doubt  and  argument ; 
and  he  believes  in  the  pure  spirituality  of  God,  and  in 
the  doctrine  of  the  Anthropomorphites. 

A  third  appears,  who  also  professes  to  be  a  firm 
believer  in  Christianity,  and  to  receive  the  doctrines 
as  he   finds  them,  without  venturing  to  consult  the 


imbecility  of  his  own  reason.  He  maintains  that  the 
true  object  of  Christ's  mission,  was  to  disseminate 
strife  and  hatred  through  the  world.  You  are  sur- 
prised and  indignant  at  such  a  charge  being  brought 
against  a  religion,  which  proclaims  peace  on  earth, 
and  good  will  towards  men ;  against  the  doctrine  of 
the  meek  and  humble  Jesus,  who  pronounced,  Blessed 
are  the  peace  makers,  and  whose  example  was  such 
an  unequalled  pattern  of  patience,  forbearance,  and 
forgiveness  !  Your  opponent  tells  you,  these  are  falla- 
cious notions  ;  you  are  even  warned  not  to  be  de- 
ceived by  them,  for  Christ  himself  admonishes  you, 
"  think  not  that  I  am  come  to  send  peace  on  earth,  I 
come  not  to  send  peace,  but  a  sword.  For  I  am 
come  to  set  a  man  at  variance  against  his  father,  and 
the  daughter  against  her  mother,  and  the  daughter- 
in-law  against  her  mother-in-law."  It  is  in  vain  that 
you  attempt  to  qualify  and  explain  ;  this  man  also, 
who  has  built  his  system  upon  particular  passages, 
mistaking  strong  expressions  for  literal  import,  insists 
upon  your  believing  it  as  a  revealed  truth,  and  avers 
that  the  very  object  of  Christ's  mission  was  to  excite 
animosities.  Can  you  possibly  reject  his  principles 
with  the  indignation  they  deserve,  without  perceiving 
that  your  mode  of  reasoning  leads  to  regions  dark 
and  slippery  in  the  extreme  ?  Such  are  the  embar- 
rassments into  which  your  manner  of  defending  a 
doctrine,  not  more  free  from  exceptions  than  any  of 
the  preceding,  necessarily  precipitates  you. 

262  LETTERS    ON 

However  respectful  it  in  ay  appear  to  the  divine 
oracles,  the  method  you  propose  leaves  the  mind  still 
in  doubt  what  these  oracles  may  contain.  Amidst 
the  multiplicity  of  opinions,  which  present  themselves 
according  to  the  different  ideas  annexed  to  various 
passages  of  Scripture,  it  entirely  destroys  the  power 
of  selection ;  and  it  necessarily  introduces  such  a  con- 
fusion of  sentiment,  as  has  afforded  too  good  an 
apology  for  the  interference  of  spiritual  guides,  who 
have  assumed  the  office  of  composing  creeds  and 
confessions  for  the  multitude,  and  attempted  to  enforce 
the  unity  of  the  faith  in  the  bonds  of  peace,  by  all  the 
terrours  of  civil  authority,  and  all  the  anathemas  of 
religion.  It  is  thus  that  the  majority  of  christian 
professors  have  become  supple  and  credulous ;  they 
bow  before  creeds  established  by  law,  until  they  con- 
sider every  doubt  to  be  a  sin,  and  every  opposition  to 
the  established  faith  as  an  act  of  profaneness  and 
impiety.  But  the  device  being  purely  human,  is  ne- 
cessarily imperfect.  Truth,  immutable  truth,  is  ac- 
cording to  this  plan  made  to  vary  with  the  region  in 
which  particular  tenets  have  gained  the  ascendency ; 
and  that  which  is  the  true  orthodox  faith  in  one  coun- 
try, without  which  no  man  can  possibly  be  saved,  be- 
comes a  damnable  heresy  in  another. 

Have  you  never  considered  it,  Sir,  as  highly  im- 
probable, that  the  Deity  should  have  suffered  the 
evidence  for  the  historical  truth  of  Christianity  to  be 
so  extremely  powerful  and  convincing,  that  no  court 


of  judicature  has  ever  required  stronger  proofs  for  the 
establishment  of  facts  in  a  civil  process,  and  yet  that 
this  perspicuity  of  evidence  should  cease,  the  instant 
we  apply  ourselves  to  inquire  what  are  the  funda- 
mental doctrines  of  Christianity  ?  Is  it  not  singular, 
that  the  moment  we  are  admitted  within  the  veil, 
where  it  was  natural  to  expect  all  would  be  bright  and 
glorious;  is  it  not  singular,  that  doubts  and  difficulties 
and  mysteries  should  present  themselves  to  distract 
and  torment  the  mind  ;  and  that  a  prohibition  should 
be  issued,  no  longer  to  use  that  very  reason  which 
conducted  us  thither  ?  Is  it  possible  that  the  conduct 
of  Providence  should  be  so  inconsistent  with  itself? 
If  not,  then  may  we  safely  conclude  that  those  alone 
deserve  to  be  considered  as  the  peculiar  doctrines  of 
the  Gospel,  which  are  as  plain  and  conspicuous  as 
the  facts  which  establish  the  credibility  of  the  Gospel; 
those  in  which  all  christians  must  agree ;  and  we 
may  safely  conclude,  that  difficulties  arise  precisely 
at  the  points  where  doctrines  are  of  less  importance, 
or  entirely  the  false  conceptions  of  fallible  men. 

But  the  attempt  you  make  to  check  ratiocination, 
or  to  destroy  its  authority  in  matters  of  religion,  is 
vain  and  impotent.  It  is  in  itself  a  species  of  felo  de 
se  ;  for  it  can  only  be  made  by  an  effort  of  reason. 
Sentiments  the  most  absurd,  positions  the  most  extra- 
vagant, can  only  be  reconciled  to  any  mind,  because, 
in  some  point  of  view  or  other,  it  appears  rational  to 
admit  them.     The  man  who  insists  the  most  strenu- 

264  LETTERS    ON 

ously  upon  faith,  to  the  disparagement  of  human  rea- 
son, thinks  that  he  enforces  the  injunction  upon 
rational  principles.  The  argument  is  concise.  God 
is  wiser  than  man,  it  is  therefore  vain  and  presump- 
tuous for  man  to  oppose  the  imbecility  of  his  reason 
to  the  revelation  of  God.  If  synods  and  councils 
draw  up  confessions  of  faith  for  the  multitude,  and 
prohibit  the  perusal  of  the  volumes  from  which  they 
profess  to  have  taken  them,  the  argument  is,  the  popu- 
lace are  not  able  to  judge  for  themselves,  and  they 
will  infallibly  run  into  destructive  errours  ;  and  the 
populace  acquiesce,  because  they  infer  that  their 
teachers,  from  the  superiour  advantages  they  enjoy, 
must  know  much  better  than  themselves.  Thus  all 
may  be  resolved  into  the  inductions  of  the  reasoning 
faculty,  however  erroneous. 

On  the  other  hand,  christians  of  a  different  de- 
scription acknowledge,  that  the  word  of  God  ought 
to  be  implicitly  received ;  but  they  think  it  incumbent 
upon  them  to  use  their  reason,  in  a  careful  inquiry, 
What  is  the  word  of  God  ?  Propositions  of  the  most 
extravagant  nature,  opinions  diametrically  opposite  to 
each  other,  put  in  their  claim.  It  is  impossible  to 
admit  them  all,  how  then  are  they  to  be  distinguished? 
Reason,  and  reason  alone,  must  be  the  guide.  When 
a  doctrine  is  proposed  to  them  which  evidently  con- 
tradicts first  principles  universally  admitted,  they 
reject  it.  Their  argument  is  the  following  ;  it  is  in- 
finitely more  natural  to  suspect  that  a  wrong  interpre- 


tation  is  given,  by  weak  and  fallible  men  to  those 
scriptural  expressions,  which  are  thought  to  contain 
the  sentiment  enforced,  than  that  it  should  be  in  real- 
ity the  word  of  God.  Since  scripture  phraseology  is 
so  extremely  various,  that  every  rash  and  inconsider- 
ate mortal  may  find  out  some  expressions,  that  shall 
seem  to  countenance  his  favourite  dogmata,  they  think 
it  highly  necessary  to  lay  down  for  themselves  some 
indubitable  positions,  which  may  safely  conduct  them 
through  the  labyrinths  of  errour  and  contrarieties. 
They  know,  for  example,  that  the  God  of  grace  can- 
not possess  a  character  essentially  different  from  the 
God  of  nature,  since  he  is  the  same  God.  They 
naturally  expect  much  clearer  displays  of  universal 
benignity  under  the  former  character,  than  those 
which  the  latter  exhibits  to  their  admiring  view ;  and 
therefore  they  suspect  those  doctrines  which  create  an 

Upon  inquiry,  they  discover  that  the  proofs  in  their 
support  are  feeble  and  inconclusive.  They  discover 
that  the  passages  on  which  this  discord  was  founded, 
have  been  egregiously  mistaken,  and  that  fair  criti- 
cism restores  the  harmony.  When  two  very  different 
or  opposite  interpretations  solicit  acquiescence,  they 
give  the  preference  to  that  which  is  the  most  rational 
in  itself,  and  the  most  honourable  to  Deity  ;  and  they 
invariably  find  that  this  interpretation  is  the  most  con- 
sonant with  the  general  tenour  of  Scripture.  They 
explain  obscure  parts  in  the  sacred  writings,  by  those 


which  are  the  most  conspicuous,  instead  of  pursuing 
the  contrary  plan,  and  this  teaches  them  to  distinguish, 
most  carefully,  the  plain  and  simple  truths  expressly 
taught  by  Christ  himself  and  his  Apostles,  after  they 
were  commissioned  by  their  Master  to  preach  the 
Gospel,  from  those  strong  figurative  expressions,  and 
bold  representations,  occasionally  employed  by  the 
same  Apostles  in  their  epistolary  writings ;  where  it 
is  the  invariable  object  not  to  preach  another  Gospel, 
or  make  an  addition  to  that  preached  in  their  personal 
ministry,  but  to  enforce  the  truths  already  promul- 
gated, upon  the  hearts  and  consciences  of  the  new 
converts  to  Christianity.  By  pursuing  a  few  natural 
and  simple  maxims  of  this  kind,  they  solve  difficulties 
innumerable  ;  they  discover  a  perfect  harmony  be- 
tween the  word  of  God,  and  that  reason  which  God 
has  given  them  to  judge  of  it.  They  believe,  because 
they  discover  truths  perfectly  congenial  with  the  na- 
ture, wants,  and  expectations  of  men,  and  perfectly 
consistent  with  the  character  and  perfections  of  Deity. 
The  man,  who  has  thus  purified  his  faith  from  the 
dross  of  false  theology,  well  knows  the  difficulties 
which  attend  the  process ;  and  this  inspires  him  with 
true  charity  towards  those,  whose  ideas  of  Christianity 
difTer  very  considerably  from  his  own.  Fully  con- 
vinced that  faith  in  Jesus  Christ,  as  it  was  preached 
to  the  first  converts,  is  the  found? lion  of  our  religion, 
— and  not  the  doctrine  of  hereditary  guilt  and  de- 
pravity— convinced  that    "  other  foundation  no  man 


can  lay,  which  shall  be  permanent,  than  that  is  laid, 
which  is  Jesus  Christ,"  he  is  careful  to  separate  the 
wood,  hay,  stubble,  from  the  gold,  silver,  and  precious 
stones,  that  have  been  built  upon  it ;  yet  he  rejoices 
in  the  assurance,  that  "  if  any  man's  work  shall  be 
burnt,  and  he  suffer  loss,  yet  he  himself  shall  be 
saved."  He  acknowledges  that  christians  of  different 
denominations  possess  the  essentials,  and  he  embraces 
them  as  brethren  ;  though  some  may  have  inadvert- 
ently added  many  superfluities,  sometimes  trifling, 
often  pernicious.  But  he  is  careful  not  to  permit  this 
charitable  disposition  to  degenerate  into  a  spirit  of  in- 
difference. He  knows  that  truth  is  of  the  highest 
importance,  and  that  it  inevitably  leads  to  very 
important  consequences ;  while  it  is  in  the  nature 
of  errour  to  be  a  dangerous  guide  ;  and  though 
charity  hopeth  all  things,  and  believeth  all  things, 
respecting  the  motives  by  which  the  advocates  for 
false  systems  are  actuated,  yet  it  does  not  prevent 
him  from  perceiving  that  all  false  religion  is  an  enemy 
to  the  true.  It  infuses  a  multitude  of  wrong  notions, 
and  directs  the  mind  to  wrong  objects.  Truth  is 
one,  errour  is  infinite  ;  and  the  combined  influence  of 
individual  errours,  like  that  combination  of  depravity 
which  you  have  ascribed  to  an  original  taint,  may  be- 
come so  extensively  pernicious,  as,  in  process  of  time, 
to  check  and  destroy,  like  baneful  weeds,  the  be- 
nignant influence  of  truth.  This  remark  is  strikingly 
confirmed  by  the  observations  already  made  concern- 


ing  the  progress  of  infidelity,  preceded  and  occasion- 
ed by  the  no  less  extensive  progress  of  superstition. 

We  are  rapidly  approaching,  Sir,  to  that  period  in 
which  mankind  will  embrace  a  rational  religion,  or 
none  ;  since  men  will  reason,  it  is  of  high  moment 
that  they  reason  right ;  since  they  experience  the  use 
of  reason  in  their  secular  concerns,  they  cannot  con- 
ceive it  to  be  useless  in  religion.  In  this  age  of  rea- 
soning, it  is  very  necessary  to  be  assured,  that  the 
religion  which  comes  from  God  is  perfectly  conform- 
able to  the  dictates  of  reason  ;  it  is  of  the  first  im- 
portance to  evince,  that  those  religious  opinions, 
which  have  created  the  greatest  difficulties,  and  be- 
come the  strongest  impediments  to  embracing  the 
Gospel,  constitute  no  part  of  the  Gospel ;  that  they 
are  pernicious  additions,  which  destroy  the  simplicity 
of  our  religion,  and  cast  a  deep  shade  over  its  native 
excellency.  The  philosophic  enemies  of  Christianity 
contemplate  these  adventitious  blemishes  with  plea- 
sure. They  love  to  consider  them  as  the  most  im- 
portant parts  of  the  christian  religion.  They  also 
affect  to  censure  that  class  of  christians,  who  deny 
what  are  termed  the  peculiar  doctrines,  with  as  much 
severity  as  the  most  orthodox  believer.  They  are 
hurt  when  they  meet  with  a  christian,  who  presumes 
to  be  rational,  and  impertinently  insinuate  that  he 
cannot  be  a  genuine  christian.  The  reason  is  ob- 
vious. The  primitive  unadulterated  religion  of  Jesus 
consisting  of  a  few  principles,  as  rational  as  they  are 


interesting,  these  opponents  are  disappointed  when 
Christianity  is  confined  to  them  ;  they  are  now  de- 
prived of  objects  against  which  they  may  display  the 
force  of  argument,  or  direct  the  shafts  of  ridicule. 
They  weep  because  there  is  nothing  left  to  conquer. 

Of  the  innumerable  errours,  which  have  tarnished 
and  disgraced  our  holy  religion,  the  one  which  you 
consider  as  lying  at  its  foundation,  appears,  to  the 
writer  of  these  letters,  to  be  one  of  the  most  perni- 
cious in  its  tendency,  and  the  weakest  in  point  of 
evidence.  The  above  animadversions  will  indicate 
how  little  can  be  urged  in  its  support,  even  by  your 
eloquence,  on  the  principles  of  reason  ;  and  there  is 
scarcely  a  doctrine  that  has  been  embraced  by  the 
most  enthusiastic  visionary,  which  cannot  boast  equal, 
if  not  greater  authority  from  Scripture.  A  few,  very 
few  detached  passages,  taken  from  their  peaceful 
stations,  where  their  plain  and  simple  meaning  was 
well  understood  by  their  connexions,  have  been  as- 
siduously collected  together,  and  compelled,  by  forced 
interpretations,  to  give  a  fallacious  evidence  in  favour 
of  a  doctrine  they  knew  not,  and  with  which  they 
had  no  concern.  These  are  strong  expressions,  but 
they  are  dictated  by  a  conviction  founded  on  the 
strongest  proofs. 

The  abettors  of  the  calvinistic  doctrines  act  con- 
sistently, in  being  strenuous  for  the  support  of  original 
depravity  ;  for  they  justly  view  it  as  the  foundatior 
of  a  system,  which  they  have  mistaken  for  genuine 


Christianity,  and  which  cannot  be  subverted  without 
the  demolition  of  the  superstructure.  The  strongest 
argument  they  can  possibly  produce  in  its  favour,  is 
not  to  be  found  in  positive  evidence,  but  in  its  being 
absolutely  necessary  to  the  support  of  other  doctrines, 
which  they  consider  as  of  divine  authority.  Were 
those  doctrines  in  themselves  capable  of  demonstra- 
tion ;  did  they  resemble  first  principles  that  must  be 
true,  then  the  necessity  of  its  relation  to  them  would 
furnish  a  plausible  inference  of  its  truth  also  ;  but  as 
this  is  not  the  case,  such  a  circuitous  mode  of  reason- 
ing cannot  be  admitted.  All  that  can  be  acknow- 
ledged is,  that  the  doctrine  of  original  sin  is  an  essen- 
tial part  of  their  system  ;  but  it  remains  to  be  proved, 
that  this  is  the  system  of  genuine  Christianity,  and  not 
a  fabric  of  human  invention. 

Those,  who  entertain  very  different  ideas  of  the 
nature  of  Christianity,  not  feeling  this  necessity,  have 
mostly  been  satisfied  with  rejecting  the  doctrine,  as 
superfluous  ;  or  with  suggesting  a  few  general  argu- 
ments in  opposition  to  it,  without  entering  into  a 
minute  investigation  of  the  subject,  or  aiming  at  its 
complete  confutation. 

But  a  tenet  that  is  still  received  among  the  churches 
of  Europe  ;  that  has  been  believed  as  an  essential  ar- 
ticle of  the  christian  faith,  by  a  constellation  of  great 
and  wise  men,  in  different  ages;  that  is  warmly 
espoused  by  yourself,  and  preached  at  the  present 
hour  by  a  very  numerous  and  pious  body  of  christians, 


ought  not  to  be  dismissed  without  full  examination, 
and  without  the  strongest  evidences  of  its  being  un- 
scriptural  or  irrational. 

It  appears  to  the  author  of  these  letters,  that  such 
evidences  can  be  produced.  He  first  collected  them 
for  his  own  satisfaction,  and  is  desirous  of  stating 
them  to  your  conviction.  He  also  was  educated  in 
this  fundamental  article  of  the  established  faith  ;  but 
he  no  sooner  began  to  reason,  than  he  felt  insuffer- 
able uneasiness  that  such  a  doctrine  should  be  a  reve- 
lation from  a  God,  who  is  benignity  itself.  He  could 
not  possibly  silence  "  those  unbelieving  doubts,  which 
are  ever  springing  up  in  the  heart."  The  doctrine 
appeared  so  repugnant  to  the  character  of  a  Being, 
whom  we  are  ordered  to  love  and  adore,  that  a  sin- 
cere concern  for  the  honour  of  that  Being,  led  him 
to  inquire  whether,  of  a  truth,  it  was  from  God. 
The  letters,  which  he  has  the  honour  of  addressing  to 
you,  contain  the  result  of  this  inquiry,  which  he  sub- 
mits to  your  serious  consideration.  He  invites  you 
to  search  the  arguments  adduced  with  a  freedom 
similar  to  his  own  ;  and  promises  to  bow  before  the 
force  of  evidence. 

You  will  perceive  by  the  respectful  strain  in  which 
these  letters  are  written,  that  although  the  author 
wishes  to  remain  concealed,  he  scorns  to  abuse  con- 
cealment, by  indulging  in  personal  reflections.  He 
carefully  and  sincerely  distinguishes  between  the  man 
and  his  doctrines,  as  he  is  convinced  that  they  differ 


widely  in  the  article  of  respectability.  The  conceal- 
ment, it  is  true,  annihilates  every  claim  to  personal 
respect ;  but  if  you  should  think  his  arguments  worth 
your  notice,  he  is  convinced  that  your  manner  will  be 
worthy  of  yourself,  and  consistent  with  that  high  re- 
gard for  your  merits  entertained  by 



Calvinistic  Doctrine  of  Original  Sin,  or  Total  De- 
pravity, stated.  Not  consistent  with  Scripture. 
No  evidence  in  the  Sacred  Writings,  that  Adam 
was  created  with  a  perfect  Nature,  or  that  the  sin- 
ful Propensities  of  his  Posterity  were  derived  from 

As  the  preceding  letter  was  principally  devoted  to 
the  examination  of  your  arguments,  and  proving  the 
insufficiency  of  the  mode  you  have  adopted  to  defend 
the  doctrine  of  hereditary  depravity,  it  has  unavoid- 
ably assumed  the  appearance  of  a  personal  attack, 
which  cannot  be  pleasing  to  yourself,  nor  is  it  to  the 
author,  who  contends  not  for  victory,  nor  wishes  to 
irritate,  but  sincerely  aims  at  your  conviction.  Con- 
fiding in  the  liberality  of  your  disposition,  and  in  the 
accuracy  of  your  judgment  in  cases  where  you  dare 


to  exercise  it,  he  is  not  without  hopes  that  the  obser- 
vations already  suggested  will  not  only  have  explained, 
in  a  satisfactory  manner,  the  cause  why  you  cannot 
possibly  convince  the  skeptic  of  the  futility  of  his 
reasoning,  but  dispose  you  to  doubt  the  validity  of 
your  own.  He  flatters  himself  also,  that  if  you  will 
accompany  him  through  a  more  minute  review  of  the 
doctrine  you  so  warmly  espouse,  than  you  may  hith- 
erto have  taken,  it  will  appear  in  every  point  of  view 
totally  unworthy  of  your  patronage.  This  expectation 
is  encouraged  by  several  symptoms,  which  indicate 
your  dissatisfaction  at  a  tenet  you  think  it  is  your 
duty  to  embrace  and  enforce.  Your  efforts  to  sup- 
press the  exercise  of  reason  could  only  have  been 
made,  in  consequence  of  your  perceiving  something 
unreasonable  in  the  doctrine  itself.  You  obviously 
consider  such  a  suppression  as  a  sacrifice  due  to  a 
revealed  truth;  as  a  species  of  auto  defe,  the  severity 
of  which  you  very  sensibly  feel.  You  frankly  allow, 
that  "  unbelieving  doubts  are  ever  springing  up  in  the 
heart."  Could  you  but  entertain  the  idea,  that  these 
unbelieving  doubts  proceed  from  the  understanding 
rather  than  from  the  heart,  instead  of  suppressing,  you 
would  think  it  right  to  encourage  them.  Or,  if  you 
choose  to  ascribe  them  to  the  heart,  conceive  that 
they  may  be  seated  in  the  best  of  its  affections,  its 
benevolence  and  its  love  of  rectitude,  and  you  will  be 
prepared  to  suspect,  that  there  must  be  something 
essentially  wrong  in  your  hypothesis,  which  can  be 

274  LETTERS    ON 

inimical  to  feelings  like  these.  Such  circumstances 
strongly  indicate,  that  you  are  open  to  conviction,  and 
that  you  would  gladly  renounce  the  doctrine,  did  you 
not  believe  it  to  be  of  divine  authority. 

It  is,  good  Sir,  so  painful  for  a  sensible,  conscien- 
tious man  to  hold  a  faith,  which  is  at  variance  with 
his  judgment,  that  it  becomes  an  office  of  charity  to 
endeavour  to  relieve  him  from  his  embarrassment,  by 
collecting  incontestible  proofs,  that  such  sentiments 
cannot  be  true,  and  that  it  is  the  duty  of  every  rea- 
sonable being  to  dismiss  them  from  his  creed. 

The  strong  objection  which  was  the  subject  of  ani- 
madversion in  the  former  letter,  is  by  no  means  the 
only  one  to  be  proposed  to  the  doctrine  which  you 
have  unfortunately  espoused ;  and  had  you  been  more 
successful  in  your  attempts  to  confute  it,  your  victory 
would  have  been  incomplete.  There  are  many  other 
objections,  which  you  have  passed  over  in  silence, 
that  deserve  your  most  serious  attention;  and  these 
shall  be  considered  in  the  present  and  some  following 

In  order  to  do  justice  to  the  subject,  it  will  be  re- 
quisite to  state  the  doctrine  of  original  sin,  not  in  the 
partial  and  delicate  manner,  which  your  regard  for 
its  character  has  induced  you  to  pursue,  but  as  it  is 
boldly  expressed  in  the  creeds  and  confessions  of 
those,  who  have  enforced   it  with  synodical  authority. 

That  no  suspicion  may  be  entertained  of  exaggera- 
tion, or  of  a  design  to  "  set  down  aught  in  malice," 


the  catechism  composed  by  the  assembly  of  divines 
shall  be  our  guide.  In  that  summary  of  christian 
faith  the  subject  is  thus  treated. 

"  God  created  man  in  his  own  image ;  in  know- 
ledge, righteousness,  and  holiness ;  with  dominion 
over  his  creatures.  When  God  created  man,  he  en- 
tered into  a  covenant  with  him  upon  condition  of 
perfect  obedience,  forbidding  him  to  eat  of  the  tree 
of  knowledge  of  good  and  evil,  upon  pain  of  death. 

"Our  first  parents  being  left  to  the  freedom  of  their 
own  will,  fell  from  the  estate  wherein  they  were 
created,  by  sinning  against  God. 

"  Sin  is  any  want  of  conformity  to,  or  a  transgress- 
on  of  the  law  of  God. 

"  The  sin  whereby  our  first  parents  fell  from  the 
estate  wherein  they  were  created,  was  the  eating  the 
forbidden  fruit. 

"  The  covenant  being  made  with  Adam,  not  only 
for  himself  but  for  his  posterity,  all  mankind  descend- 
ing from  him  by  ordinary  generation,  sinned  in  him, 
and  fell  with  him  in  the  first  transgression. 

"  The  fall  did  bring  man  into  a  state  of  sin  and 

"  The  sinfulness  of  that  state  whereinto  man  fell, 
consists  in  the  guilt  of  Adam's  first  sin,  the  want  of 
original  righteousness,  the  corruption  of  his  whole 
nature,  which  is  commonly  called  original  sin,  togeth- 
er with  all  the  actual  transgressions  which  proceed 
from  it. 

276  LETTERS    ON 

"  All  mankind,  by  the  fall,  lost  communion  with 
God  ;  are  under  his  wrath  and  curse,  and  so  made 
liable  to  all  the  miseries  in  this  life,  to  death  itself, 
and  to  the  pains  of  hell  for  ever.  This  constitutes 
the  misery  of  that  estate  whereinto  man  fell. 

"  God,  out  of  his  mere  good  pleasure,  from  all 
eternity  elected  some  to  everlasting  life,  did  enter 
into  a  covenant  of  grace  to  deliver  them  out  of  the 
estate  of  sin  and  misery,  and  to  bring  them  into  a  state 
of  salvation  by  a  Redeemer  ;  and  thus  God  did  not 
leave  all  mankind  to  perish  in  a  state  of  sin  and 

Although  the  doctrine  of  original  sin,  as  it  is  taught 
in  most  of  the  protestant  churches  in  Europe,  is  es- 
sentially the  same,  yet  they  indulge  to  a  variety  in 
their  amplifications.  The  Walloon  churches,  or  those 
of  the  French  protestants,  for  example,  enlarge  con- 
siderably upon  the  moral  incapacity  of  man  in  con- 
sequence of  Adam's  fall.  Thus  to  the  question  ; 
"  Are  all  our  works  so  reprobated  that  they  cannot 
merit  any  favour  before  God?"  the  answer  is,  "All 
the  works  performed  by  the  natural  man  (de  notre 
propre  nature)  are  vicious  in  themselves,  consequent- 
ly they  must   displease  God,  and   be  condemned  by 

*  Had  these  letters  been  privately  conveyed  to  Mr  WiIberforce,so 
large  a  portion  of  the  Assembly's  Catechism  would  not  have  been 
transcribed  ;  but  as  they  are  submitted  to  public  inspection,  some 
reader  may  possibly  be  gratified  with  being  introduced  to  an  ac- 
quaintance with  an  article  of  faith  he  has  been  professing  all  his 
life,  without  paying  the  least  attention  to  its  nature. 


him."  Minister.  "  You  say  that  before  God  has 
received  us  into  his  favour  we  cannot  avoid  sinning, 
as  a  bad  tree  necessarily  brings  forth  bad  fruit  ?" 
Catechumen.  "  Doubtless,  for  however  beautiful  our 
works  may  appear  externally,  they  are  inevitably 
sinful,  because  the  heart,  which  God  regards,  is  cor- 

The  German  protestants  tell  us,  in  the  Heidelburg 
confession,  that  we  are  naturally  prone  to  hate  both 
God  and  our  neighbour;  that  we  are  totally  incapable 
of  any  good,  and  inclined  to  every  evil,  before  we  are 
born  again  by  the  Spirit  of  God.  It  is  asked  of  the 
catechumen,  "  Is  not  God  unjust,  when  he  requires 
of  man  what  we  are  not  able  to  perform  ?"  and  it  is 
answered,  "  Not  in  the  least.  For  God  had  made 
man  perfect,  so  that  he  was  able  to  fulfil  the  law ;  but 
he  has  deprived  himself  and  all  his  posterity  of  this 
power,  by  listening  to  the  suggestions  of  the  devil." 
Ques.  "  Will  God  leave  this  disobedience  and  apos- 
tacy  unpunished  ?"  Ans.  "  By  no  means ;  but  he 
will  manifest  his  terrible  wrath,  both  against  original 
guilt  and  actual  transgression  ;  and  he  will  punish 
both  by  a  righteous  judgment  in  time  and  in  eternity ; 
for  it  is  written,  cursed  is  every  one  that  continueih  not 
in  all  things  which  are  written  in  the  book  of  the  law, 
to  do  them.''''  Ques.  "  But  is  not  God  compassionate 
also  ?"  Ans.  "  Yes,  God  is  compassionate,  but  he  is 
also  just;  and  justice  demands  that  sin,  which  is  com- 

*  See  Les  Articles  de  la  Foi,  Dimanche  \9me. 

278  LETTERS    ON 

mitted  against  his  infinite  majesty,  should  be  punished 
to  the  utmost ;  that  is,  with  the  everlasting  punish- 
ment of  both  body  and  soul." 

These,  Sir,  are  the  sentiments  imposed  upon  us, 
by  a  conspiracy  of  fallible  men,  as  the  oracles  of  the 
living  God  !  These  are  the  glad  tidings  of  salvation 
which  a  merciful  Redeemer  came  to  proclaim!  God 
so  loved  the  world,  that  he  sent  his  Son  to  preach 
these  horrours,  from  which  the  multitude  cannot  pos- 
sibly escape  !  This  is  the  last  and  best  dispensation 
from  him,  who  will  not  always  chide,  nor  hold  his 
anger  forever  !  If  these  doctrines  be  true,  and  if  it 
be  true  that  the  Divine  Being  delighteth  not  in  the 
death  of  a  sinner,  what  insufferable  violence  must  this 
vindictive  justice  commit  upon  the  compassion  of  his 
nature  ! 

But  it  is  time  to  inquire  what  foundation  there  is 
for  this  horrid  hypothesis?  A  doctrine  so  tremendous, 
that  it  harrows  up  one's  soul  as  we  are  stating  it, 
ought  to  be  established  upon  the  firmest  foundation. 
It  ought  to  be  proclaimed  from  heaven  by  a  voice 
which  all  can  hear,  and  no  one  misinterpret ;  and  all 
the  powers  of  natural  reason,  and  the  best  feelings  of 
humanity,  ought  to  be  brought  into  submission  by 
some  incontestable  authority. 

You  confess  that  it  is  difficult  to  reconcile  this 
doctrine  with  the  principles  of  reason  ;  but  you  think 
that  it  is  taught  in  the  Scriptures,  and  countenanced 
by  the  moral  state  of  mankind.     We  will  therefore 


first  consider  the  evidence  from  Scripture,  and  inquire 
whether  that  be  so  convincing  as  to  deserve  being 
placed  in  competition  with  the  powerful  objections, 
which  natural  reason  suggests.  By  pursuing  this 
plan,  your  reluctance  to  attend  to  the  voice  of  reason 
may  possibly  be  subdued. 

The  doctrine  of  original  sin,  as  stated  above,  pre- 
supposes the  perfection  of  Adam's  nature  before  the 
fall ;  teaches  the  depravity  of  human  nature,  in  con- 
sequence of  the  fall ;  and  the  eternal  punishment  of 
the  majority  of  the  human  race,  in  consequence  of 
this  depravity. 

Respecting  the  first  article,  if  we  had  been  taught 
to  understand  by  the  perfection  of  his  nature,  Adam's 
innocence,  and  the  rectitude  of  his  disposition,  simply, 
the  position  would  have  been  admissible.  He  must 
have  been  innocent  before  he  was  guilty,  and  his  dis- 
positions upright  before  they  were  perverted.  But 
much  more  has  been  understood.  It  has  been  assert- 
ed, that  the  powers  and  propensities  of  our  first  pa- 
rents were  vastly  superiour  to  the  present  standard  of 
human  nature  ;  once  "  beams  etherial,"  now  "  sullied 
and  absorbed."  These,  however,  are  mere  phan- 
toms of  the  brain,  unsupported  by  a  single  proof.  The 
sacred  historian  informs  us,  that  God  made  man  in  his 
own  image.  Catechisms,  not  Scripture,  have  added, 
in  knowledge,  righteousness,  and  holiness.  Now  the 
only  instance  upon  record  of  knowledge;  is,  that  of 
his  having  given  names  to  the  various  animals,  as  they 


were  brought  before  him,  which  is  too  circumscribed 
to  be  worthy  of  an  encomium;  and  as  to  his  righteous- 
ness and  holiness,  the  Scriptures  are  perfectly  silent. 
It  is  true,  Adam  was  created  with  a  thirst  for  know- 
ledge, which  induced  him  to  eat  of  the  "  tree  to  be 
desired  to  make  one  wise  ;"  but  he  manifested  his 
ignorance,  in  not  discovering  the  artifices  of  the  evil 
one,  and  in  imagining  that  he  could  improve  his  situa- 
tion by  disobeying  the  divine  command. 

The  expression  "  let  us  make  man  in  our  image," 
has  been  variously  interpreted.  It  has  been  con- 
sidered by  some  as  referring  to  the  spirituality  of  our 
natures,  or  to  our  possessing  an  immaterial  principle, 
in  distinction  from  every  other  class  of  animated 
beings.  Whoever  admits  this  sense,  must  also  admit 
that  it  is  equally  applicable  to  the  offspring  of  Adam, 
in  their  present  dishonoured  state.  This,  of  conse- 
quence, is  not  the  high  dignity  forfeited  by  the  fall. 
Some  imagine,  that  the  expression  relates  to  the  ex- 
alted powers  conferred  upon  man,  in  distinction  from 
the  lower  creation,  by  which  he  is  rendered  capable 
of  mental  improvements  and  mental  enjoyments.  In 
this  sense  also,  is  the  term  applicable  to  the  offspring 
of  Adam,  even  in  these  days  of  their  supposed  de- 

The  Scriptures  themselves  obviously  confine  the 
expression  to  the  universal  dominion  given  to  the  hu- 
man race  over  all  the  other  creatures  of  God.  "And 
God  said,  let  us  make  man  in  our  image,  and  after 


our  likeness;  and  let  him  have  dominion  over  the  fish 
of  the  sea,  and  over  the  fowl  of  the  air,  and  over 
the  cattle,  and  over  all  the  earth,  and  over  every 
thing  that  creepeth  upon  the  earth  ;  so  God  created 
man  in  his  own  image,"  he.  In  consequence  of  this 
wonderful  superiority  in  his  mental  powers,  is  man 
hecome  the  sovereign  of  creation,  and  able  to  render 
every  part  subservient  to  his  will.  He  is  able  to 
subdue  the  strength  of  the  strongest,  and  bow  their 
necks  to  his  yoke  ;  he  arrests  the  flight  of  the  swift- 
est, and  exceeds,  by  his  inventions,  the  craft  of  the 
most  crafty.  "  He  has  more  wisdom  than  the  fowls 
of  the  air,  and  more  understanding  than  the  beasts  of 
the  field  ;"  and  thus  may  he  be  viewed  as  the  vice- 
gerent on  the  earth,  the  representative  of  the  Uni- 
versal Sovereign.  This  interpretation  is  also  as  ap- 
plicable to  the  offspring  of  Adam,  as  to  their  first 
parent.  In  no  sense,  therefore,  can  the  passage  be 
confined  to  that  state  of  high  perfection  ascribed  to 
Adam  during  his  innocence  ;  and  yet  it  is  the  strong- 
est argument  in  favour  of  the  position,  that  has  ever 
been  adduced. 

Another  passage  of  Scripture  has  indeed  been 
pressed  into  the  service,  which  is,  the  observation  of 
the  preacher  in  Ecclesiastes  ;  "  God  made  man  up- 
right; but  they  found  out  many  inventions."  It  will 
be  unnecessary  to  detain  you  in  attempting  to  prove 
that  the  preacher  is  not,  in  this  place,  speaking  of 
Adam's  transgression;  but  simply  making  observations 



upon  common  life;  that  by  man  we  are  to  understand 
mankind  in  general ;  for  we  are  told,  they  found  out 
many  inventions ;  nor  is  the  phrase  in  any  way  appli- 
cable to  that  single  transgression  of  our  first  parents ; 
the  invention  manifested  in  this  transaction  was  found 
out  by  Satan,  by  which  Adam  was  unfortunately  de- 

Not  being  forbidden  by  any  express  declarations  in 
Scripture,  we  may  innocently  presume  that  the  powers 
and  faculties  of  Adam  and  Eve  were  as  limited  as  our 
own,  and  that  their  propensities  to  good  and  evil  were 
perfectly  similar.  Whence  comes  it,  otherwise,  that 
they  should  fall  an  easy  prey  to  so  slight  a  tempta- 
tion ?  The  conflict  they  had  to  sustain,  in  order  to 
manifest  their  obedience  to  the  divine  will,  was  far 
inferiour  to  many,  over  which  multitudes  of  their  pos- 
terity have  triumphed.  If  we  consider  the  Mosaic 
account  of  this  event  as  a  literal  fact,  and  not  allego- 
rical, the  temptation  was  scarcely  beyond  the  powers 
of  a  schoolboy  to  resist ;  their  ready  seduction  was 
totally  inconsistent  with  that  superiority,  that  exalta- 
tion of  character  arbitrarily  ascribed  to  them.  To 
manifest  that  a  supposition  of  this  kind  must  be  des- 
titute of  evidence,  we  have  only  to  recollect  that  no 
opportunity  could  possibly  occur  for  their  displaying 
this  elevation  of  their  natures,  had  they  really  possess- 
ed it.  No  scenes  could  possibly  present  themselves 
favourable  to  the  exercise  of  numberless  virtues,  which 
have  adorned  so  many  of  their  offspring.     In  the  in- 



fantile  state  of  the  world,  it  was  the  easiest  thing  in 
nature  to  be  perfectly  innocent,  for  scarcely  could  a 
vice  be  committed.  When  the  first  pair  were  the 
only  inhabitants  of  the  globe,  there  could  be  no  temp- 
tation to  fraud,  oppression,  deceit,  avarice  ;  nothing 
to  excite  anger,  jealousies,  envyings,  lawless  ambition, 
or  to  infuse  implacable  malice.  Social  and  relative 
duties  were  the  same,  and  circumscribed  within  the 
narrowest  bounds.  No  drunkenness  nor  adultery, 
nor  theft,  nor  covetousness,  could  possibly  constitute 
a  part  of  their  vices.  Benevolence  to  every  creature 
newly  subjugated  to  their  will  was  so  natural,  that 
they  must  have  been  monsters  not  to  possess  the  dis- 
position. They  could  not  have  experienced  a  series 
of  vexations  and  disappointments,  to  irritate  their 
minds,  and  render  them  peevish  or  discontented ;  nor 
have  suffered  an  accumulation  of  unmerited  evils, 
which  might  tempt  them  to  doubt  the  existence  of  a 
Deity,  or  suspect  the  wisdom  and  beneficence  of  his 
government.  Placed  in  a  garden  replenished  with 
delights,  by  the  hand  of  their  Creator;  and  in  a  world 
where  every  thing  new,  grand,  and  wonderful,  burst 
upon  the  astonished  sight,  must  not  the  lowest  of  their 
degraded  offspring  have  felt  an  impulse  of  admiration, 
love,  and  gratitude  ? 

Where  then   are   the  evidences  of   a  superiority, 

which  would  render  our  first  parents  a  different  class 

of  beings  from  their  offspring  ?     What  proofs,  that 

they  were  qualified,  by  the  transcendency  of  their  in- 


284  LETTERS    ON 

tellectual  and  moral  powers,  to  associate  with  angels, 
and  hold  special  communion  with  God  ?  The  posi- 
tion is  as  void  of  evidence  as  it  is  of  probability ;  and 
though  it  may  be  viewed  as  the  chief  corner-stone 
of  your  superstructure,  we  perceive,  upon  close  ex- 
amination, that  it  is  destitute  of  solidity.  Sir,  it  is 
porous,  and  crumbles  at  the  touch. 

Nor  does  the  sacred  history  present  us  with  stronger 
proofs,  that  the  children  of  Adam  derived  sinful  pro- 
pensities from  his  first  transgression.  The  Scriptures 
represent  Adam  as  the  parent  of  a  mortal  race,  and 
they  ascribe  this  law  of  mortality  to  his  disobedience. 
But  let  us  remember,  that  as  life  is  the  free  gift  of 
God,  the  continuation  of  our  existence  to  a  perpetuity 
cannot  be  claimed  by  us  as  a  natural  right.  We  may 
add,  that  it  would  prove  a  perpetual  curse  before  the 
minds  of  men  were  fully  prepared  for  so  vast  a  de- 
sign ;  and  however  repugnant  it  may  be  to  our  feel- 
ings, there  is  neither  injustice  nor  the  imputation  of 
an  unnecessary  severity  in  the  temporary  dissolution 
of  our  frames.  Infinite  wisdom  can  best  decide  con- 
cerning the  mode  of  introducing  this  law  of  our  disso- 
lution, and  infinite  wisdom  is  able  to  convert  the 
greatest  seeming  evil  into  the  most  substantial  good. 
But  we  are  not  taught  by  any  passage  of  sacred  writ, 
that  the  vices  of  men,  or  their  vicious  propensities,  are 
inheritances  derived  from  the  offence  of  Adam.  This 
idea  is  merely  an  induction  from  expressions,  which 
were  intended  to  convey  a  very  different  meaning. 


Had  it  been  the  object  of  the  sacred  writings  to 
make  us  acquainted  with  so  singular  a  fact,  it  surely 
would  not  have  been  passed  over  in  total  silence  by- 
Moses  in  the  account  given  us  of  the  first  transgression. 
Shall  we  suppose  him  to  have  been  inspired  to  write 
the  history  of  the  fall,  and  that  he  should  have  omit- 
ted the  chief  circumstance  ?  Or  that  it  should  have 
been  withheld  from  him,  and  revealed  at  a  very  re- 
mote period  to  others,  who  were  not  appointed  to  be 
the  historians  of  the  event  ?  The  supposition  is  ex- 
travagant. This  is  unquestionably  the  properest  place 
for  the  narrative,  but  here  we  find  it  not.  The  first 
sin  recorded  after  the  grand  offence  was  the  murder 
of  Abel  by  his  brother  Cain  ;  and  this  horrid  instance 
of  fratricide  is  ascribed  to  the  passions  of  anger  and 
jealousy,  which  have  multiplied  murders  since  that 
event ;  there  is  not  the  most  distant  insinuation,  that 
those  passions  were  implanted  by  the  disobedience  of 
his  father,  When  the  wickedness  of  the  world  was 
so  great  that,  according  to  the  strong  figurative  lan- 
guage of  the  Scripture,  "  it  repented  the  Lord  that 
he  had  made  man  on  the  earth,  and  it  grieved  him  at 
his  heart ;"  we  are  not  informed  that  the  sin  of  Adam 
was  the  cause  of  this  wickedness,  or  that  it  grieved 
the  Lord  that  he  had  permitted  man  to  pollute  his 
offspring.  The  event  is  represented  as  arising  from 
the  progressive  degeneracy  of  men,  "  as  they  began 
to  multiply  upon  the  face  of  the  earth,"  that  is,  to 
the  contagion  of  evil  example,  and  not  to  the  develope- 

286  LETTERS   ON 

ment  of  that  grand  germ  of  corruption  implanted  in 
the  heart  of  man  at  the  fall. 

Again,  as  you  allow  that  Jesus  Christ  came  into 
the  world  to  repair  the  ruin  of  the  fall,  it  is  natural  to 
imagine  that  he  would,  in  the  course  of  his  ministry, 
have  made  us  clearly  acquainted  with  the  nature  and 
extent  of  this  ruin.  We  are  assured,  that  the  world 
was  in  a  state  of  sin  and  misery  ;  but  the  derived  cor- 
ruption of  human  nature  in  consequence  of  the  fall, 
is  not  intimated  by  the  author  of  the  christian  dispen- 
sation, nor  was  it,  previously  to  his  appearance.  We 
find  no  declaration,  that  he  came  to  save  a  sinful 
world  from  hereditary  sin.  This  doctrine  is  not 
mentioned  in  the  commission  given  to  the  Apostles  to 
preach  repentance  and  remission  of  sins ;  nor  do  we 
discover,  in  the  execution  of  their  commission,  that 
they  either  lament  the  state  of  mankind,  or  upbraid 
the  children  of  Adam,  on  account  of  the  depravity 
derived  from  him. 

Thus  it  is  incontestable,  that  this  article  of  your 
creed  is  not  mentioned  where  it  was  most  natural  to 
expect  it ;  neither  is  it  enforced  by  those  who  must 
have  been  the  best  informed,  and  who  alone  could 
possess  authority  to  propagate  it. 

How,  Sir,  can  you  account  for  so  very  singular  a 
circumstance  ?  How  conies  it  that  a  doctrine,  deem- 
ed so  essential  to  Christianity,  should  have  been  for- 
saken or  omitted  by  those,  whose  peculiar  province  it 
was  to  place  it  in  the  most  conspicuous  point  of  view  ? 


How  comes  its  foundation  to  rest  solely  on  the  inter- 
pretation given  to  a  few  phrases  scattered  in  different 
parts  of  the  Old  and  New  Testament,  which  from 
their  connexion,  and  from  the  manner  in  which  they 
were  uttered,  are  not  only  capable  of  a  different  con- 
struction but  demand  it  ?  Expressions,  some  of  which 
were  obviously  the  strong  language  natural  to  occa- 
sional emotions,  some  proverbial,  some  descriptive  of 
particular  classes  and  characters  of  men,  without  any 
reference  to  the  sin  of  Adam  ;  and  some  were  spoken 
by  persons  whom  it  would  be  ridiculous  to  suppose 
possessed  of  inspiration. 


Texts  of  Scripture  examined.  The  Notion  of  a 
Total,  Hereditary  Depravity  confuted  by  Obser- 
vation and  Experience.  Stronger  Proofs,  that 
Men  are  upright  and  perfect,  than  that  they  are 
totally  depraved. 

The  passages  you  quote,  in  support  of  your  senti- 
ments, illustrate  and  confirm  the  truth  of  the  above 
observation  ;  for  not  one  of  them  has  the  most  distant 
relation  to  the  subject.*     They  all  refer  to  a  state  of 

*  They  are  the  following ; 

The  imagination  of  man's  heart  is  evil  from  his  youth.     What  is 
roan  that  he  sIioiaJc!  be  clean  ?    and  he  which  is  born  of  a  woman, 


actual  depravity,  without  reference  to  its  cause ;  and 
they  describe,  in  striking  language,  those  vicious  pro- 
pensities too  frequently  observable  both  in  individuals 
and  in  large  communities,  which  may  be  the  result  of 
perverse  education,  evil  habits,  the  force  of  bad  ex- 
ample, and  other  causes  which  are  known  actually  to 
exist,  and  whose  influence  is  universally  acknow- 
ledged, without  insinuating  that  they  are  the  streams, 
which  necessarily  flow  from  the  original  transgression 
of  Adam.  This  propensity  to  sinful  errours  is  fully 
expressed  by  "  the  imagination  of  man's  heart  is  evil 
from  his  youth;"  and  to  this  is  it  necessarily  confined, 
if  you  will  not  compel  it  to  start  from  its  context  in 
order  to  support  an  hypothesis.  The  phrase  is  men- 
tioned twice  in  the  book  of  Genesis.  In  the  first 
instance  it  refers  to  that  accumulated  wickedness,  that 
acquired  corruption,  which  preceded  the  flood  ;  when 
"  God  saw  that  the  wickedness  of  man  was  great  in 
the  earth,  and  that  every  imagination  of  the  thoughts 
of  his    heart    was   only    evil    continually."     In    the 

that  he  should  be  righteous  ?  How  much  more  abominable  and  filthy 
is  man,  which  drinketh  iniquity  like  water  ?  The  Lord  looked  down 
from  Heaven  upon  the  children  of  men,  to  see  if  there  were  any 
that  did  understand  and  seek  God.  They  are  all  gone  aside  ;  they 
are  altogether  become  filthy  ;  there  is  none  that  doeth  good,  no  not 
one.  Who  can  say,  I  have  made  my  heart  clean,  I  am  pure  from 
sin  ?  The  heart  is  deceitful  above  all  things  and  desperately  wicked, 
who  can  know  it  ?  Behold,  I  was  shapen  in  wickedness,  and  in  sin 
hath  my  mother  conceived  me.  We  were  by  nature  the  children  of 
wrath,  even  as  others,  fulfilling  the  desires  of  the  flesh  and  of  the 
mind.  O,  wretched  man  that  I  am,  who  shall  deliver  me  from  the 
body  of  this  death  ? 


second  instance,  it  is  expressive  of  the  weak  and  imper- 
fect state  of  our  natures,  which,  instead  of  exciting 
the  divine  wrath,  is  a  subject  of  his  commiseration. 
"  The  Lord  said  in  his  heart,  I  will  not  again  curse 
the  ground  for  man's  sake,  for  the  imagination  of 
man's  heart  is  evil  from  his  youth ;  neither  will  I 
again  smite  any  more  every  living  thing,  as  I  have 
done."*  Your  second  and  third  quotations  are  rather 
unfortunate  ;  for  as  it  has  been  judiciously  remark- 
ed,f  they  are  no  revelations  from  God,  but  exagge- 
rated representations  made  of  human  infirmities  by 
Eliphaz,  the  Temanite,J  which  provoked  even  the 
patient  Job  to  reply,  "  miserable  comforters  are  you 
all ; — Shall  vain  words  have  an  end,  or  what  embold- 
eneth  thee  that  thou  answerest  ?"  &c.  Again,  "  ye 
are  all  forgers  of  lies ;  ye  are  all  physicians  of  no 
value ;  Oh,  that  you  would  altogether  hold  your 
peace,  and  it  should  be  your  wisdom." 

Let  this  instance,  Sir,  of  the  absurdities  and  incon- 
sistencies which  result  from  an  indiscriminate  quota- 
tion from  Scripture  be  added  to  those  mentioned  in 
a  preceding  Letter  ;  and  let  them  exert  their  influence 
to  dissuade  you  from  a  practice,  which  is  the  fertile 
source  of  every  errour  ;  which  renders  the  Oracles  of 
Truth  as  equivocal  and  contradictory  as  the  Delphic 
Oracles  or  the  Sibyl's  Leaves. 

*  Genesis  vi.  5.     lb.  viii.  21. 

t  See  a  Review  of  Mr  Wilber force's  Treatise,  by  T.  Belsham, 
page  43. 

i  Job  xv.  14,  16.     lb.  xvi.2,  3. 


As  all  the  other  passages  you  have  quoted  relate 
merely  to  the  state  in  which  either  individuals,  or 
large  bodies  of  men,  may  be  occasionally  reduced, 
they  are  equally  irrelevant  to  our  subject.  They  ex- 
press truths  which  no  one  has  ever  disputed,  but  they 
give  you  no  assistance  in  forming  your  hypothesis  ex- 
planatory of  these  truths.  Th> -y  mention  facts  alone; 
and  it  is  the  hypothetic  abettors  of  an  extravagant 
system  alone,  that  presume  to  trace  the  cause  to  the 
sin  of  our  first  parents. 

You  may  perhaps  still  argue,  that  the  declaration 
of  David,  "  Behold  I  was  shapen  in  iniquity,  and  in 
sin  did  my  mother  conceive  me ;"  and  that  of  the 
Apostle,  "we  were  by  nature  children  of  wrath,  even 
as  others,"  are  too  explicit  to  be  included  in  the  above 
remark.  We  will,  therefore,  pay  them  more  particu- 
lar attention. 

The  expression  of  David  is  generally  allowed  to 
be  a  part  of  the  penitential  Psalm  he  composed,  upon 
his  having  been  guilty  of  the  sins  of  adultery  and 
murder.  It  is  manifestly  the  strong  language  of  con- 
trition  and  seif-abhorrence.  He  adopted  a  phrase 
proverbial  among  the  Jews,  by  which  he  intimated, 
that  his  vicious  propensities  were  so  great,  that  had 
he  been  born  with  them  they  could  not  have  been 
stronger.  Such  terms  are  common  in  all  countries, 
and  cannot  be  mistaken  by  natives  and  contempora- 
ries, whatever  interpretations  they  may  suffer  from  the 
comments  of  foreigners,  or  from  the  changes  which 


may  in  process  of  time  take  place  in  the  modes  of 
expression.  Let  us  suppose,  Sir,  that  you,  in  the 
warmth  of  your  laudable  zeal  for  the  abolition  of  the 
slave  trade,  should  declare  in  the  Senate,  that  those 
who  persevere  to  carry  on  that  detestable  commerce 
must  be  devils  incarnate.  We  will  suppose  your 
speech  to  descend  to  posterity,  and  that  the  express- 
ion should  meet  with  a  commentator,  who  explained 
the  terms  in  their  literal  sense,  seriously  adducing  them 
as  proofs,  that  they  were  not  men,  but  devils  in  the 
form  of  men,  who  were  used  to  engage  in  the  traffic ; 
we  will  suppose  him  to  conclude,  that  it  was  custom- 
ary for  evil  spirits  to  assume  the  human  shape,  that 
they  might  man  the  ships  from  Liverpool  and  other 
places,  in  order  to  deal  in  human  flesh,  torment  the 
inoffensive  negroes,  and  transport  them  into  wretched 
captivity  for  the  sake  of  gain  ;  would  you  not  smile, 
though  you  might  be  disposed  to  excuse  the  blunder 
on  account  of  the  pointed  satire  it  contained  ?  That 
the  terms  being  born  in  sin  were  equally  proverbial 
among  the  Jews,  is  evident  from  a  similar  expression 
being  employed  by  the  Pharisees,  when  they  ques- 
tioned the  man  who  had  been  blind,  concerning  the 
manner  in  which  he  had  received  his  sight.  Upon  his 
asserting,  "  if  this  man  [Jesus]  was  not  of  God,  he 
could  do  nothing ;"  they  answered,  "  thou  wast  alto- 
gether born  in  sins,  and  dost  thou  teach  us  ?"* 

*  John  ix.  33. 




Nothing  could  be  more  obvious  than  that  the  ex- 
pression was  familiarly  used  as  a  mark  of  ignominy 
and  reproach.  It  was  applied  to  those,  who  were 
really  degenerate,  or  who  were  looked  down  upon 
with  contempt  as  the  refuse  of  the  people.  In  the 
deep  abasement  of  his  soul,  David  appropriated  it  to 
himself,  as  in  the  haughtiness  of  his  soul,  the  Pharisee 
applied  it  to  another.  That  the  expression  could  not 
have  the  most  distant  reference  to  the  doctrine  of 
original  sin,  is  most  evident  from  this  second  mode  of 
application  ;  for  the  Pharisee,  proud  as  he  was,  could 
not  have  the  arrogance  to  deem  himself  or  his  sect  to 
be  exempt  from  a  state  of  degradation,  that  necessa- 
rily involved  all  mankind. 

Respecting  the  other  passage,  "and  were  by  nature 
children  of  wrath,  even  as  others,"*  let  us  suffer  the 
Scriptures  to  explain  themselves,  without  the  inter- 
ference of  crude  ideas  of  our  own.  They  tell  us  that 
"  the  wrath  of  God  is  revealed  from  heaven  against 
all  ungodliness  and  unrighteousness  of  men."  We 
learn  from  history,  sacred  and  profane,  that  the  world 
was  plunged  into  the  depth  of  corruption  and  depra- 
vity, before  the  appearance  of  the  Son  of  God.  Of 
this  depravation,  St  Paul  gives  us  a  dreadful  summa- 
ry in  his  Epistle  to  the  Romans.f  The  same  Apostle 
writing  to  the  Ephesians,  who  were  also  Gentiles, 
expatiates  upon  the  regenerating  nature  of  the  chris- 
tian doctrine ;  and  draws  the  contrast  between  their 

'Ephes.  ii.  3.  t  Ch.  i.  21.  passim. 


present  and  their  former  state.  "You  hath  he  quick- 
ened, who  were  dead  in  trespasses  and  sins;  wherein, 
in  time  past,  ye  walked  according  to  the  course  of  this 
world,  according  to  the  Prince  of  the  power  of  the 
air,  the  Spirit  that  now  worketh  in  the  children  of 
disobedience ;  among  whom  we  all  had  our  conversa- 
tion in  time  past,  in  the  lusts  of  our  flesh,  fulfilling  the 
desires  of  the  flesh  and  of  the  mind,  and  were  by 
nature  children  of  wrath,  even  as  others." 

The  word  nature,  it  is  well  known,  has  various 
significations  ;  and  the  precise  idea  to  be  affixed  to  it 
can  only  be  ascertained  by  the  subject  in  question,  or 
by  circumstances  relative  to  it.  Sometimes  it  signi- 
fies custom,  sometimes  prevailing  disposition,  some- 
times particular  laws  in  the  physical,  intellectual,  01 
moral  world;  sometimes  characters  that  distinguish 
one  class  from  another,  or  discriminate  individuals  in 
the  same  class.  The  context  necessarily  applies  the 
word  to  that  state  and  situation  in  which  the  Ephe- 
sians,  together  with  the  whole  Gentile  world,  were 
placed  before  their  conversion  to  Christianity  ;  and  it 
points  out  the  cause  of  their  having  been  children  of 
wrath,  even  as  others  ;  not  on  account  of  Adam's 
transgression  ;  not  on  account  of  this  original  taint 
derived  from  thence,  but  on  account  of  transgressions 
of  their  own.     "  Ye  walked  in  times  past  according 

to  the  course  of  this  world  ;" "  among  whom  also 

we  had  our  conversation  in  times  past,"  &ic.  Is  it 
possible  for  signification  to  be  more  explicit  and  de- 
cisive ? 

294  LKTTERS    ON 

You  have  remarked  that  assailants  have  generally 
the  advantage  over  the  defendant ;  but  surely,  Sir, 
you  should  have  made  some  exceptions  and  limita- 
tions according  to  the  mode  of  defence  that  may  be 
adopted.  If  it  be  permitted  to  collect  from  all  quar- 
ters, and  pour  forth  a  multitude  of  detached  scriptural 
expressions,  the  defence  is  perfectly  easy;  it  consists 
simply  in  quotations  and  assertions  ;  whereas,  the  la- 
bour of  proving,  that  the  true  signification  of  these 
passages  is  perverted,  and  that  they  are  not  applicable 
to  the  subject,  falls  to  the  lot  of  the  assailant.  A 
mound  is  thus  thrown  up  with  expedition ;  and 
though  it  has  no  solidity  in  itself,  it  serves  to  retard 
the  progress  of  the  assailant,  who  is  condemned  to 
remove  it. 

Having  shown  that  no  evidence,  in  support  of  the 
hereditary  depravity  of  mankind,  can  be  legitimately 
deduced  from  Scripture ;  and  that  those  passages, 
which  you  have  manifestly  mistaken  for  a  cloud  of 
witnesses,  are  dissipated  like  mists,  as  you  approach 
and  penetrate  them,  we  will  now  examine  the  merits 
of  the  arguments,  you  have  urged  from  experience 
and  observation.  These  you  consider  as  being  unan- 
swerable ;  and  confiding  in  the  strength  of  your 
proofs,  you  pronounce  every  one  to  be  obstinately 
dull,  who  does  not  admit  them. 

The  cause  of  your  mistake  respecting  the  argu- 
ment, and  also  the  capacities  of  your  opponents,  has 
already  been  pointed  out.     It  has  been  proved,  that 


you  have  hastily  blended  conclusions  and  inferences 
with  facts,  and  imagined  that  whoever  admits  the  lat- 
ter, must  yield  to  the  former.  We  might  readily 
concede,  that  there  is  universally  and  permanently  as 
much  wickedness  in  the  world,  as  you  have  represent- 
ed ;  we  might  grant,  that  the  principles  of  mankind 
are  totally  corrupted,  and  that  their  practice  is  in 
every  way  correspondent ;  we  might,  in  short,  accept 
your  statement,  or  even  prefer  that  of  St  Paul,  which 
is  much  stronger,  and  yet  deny  that  an  original  depra- 
vity was  imbibed  in  consequence  of  Adam's  trans- 
gression. We  might  allow,  that  all  mankind  had 
corrupted  their  ways,  and  not  suppose  that  they  were 
born  in  sin ;  and  were  it  a  literal  fact,  that  "  there  is 
none  that  doeth  good,  no,  not  one,"  we  might  perti- 
nently attribute  it  to  that  progressive  depravity  of 
which  humanity  is  capable.  But  we  are  not  under 
the  obligation  of  making  such  large  concessions.  All 
the  proofs  you  have  produced  do  not  demand  it,  nor 
will  a  strict  attention  to  the  general  character  and 
conduct  of  men,  admit  it.  All  that  you  have  said ;  all 
that  the  great  Apostle  has  said  ;  all  that  the  sacred 
historian  has  recorded,  concerning  that  universal  cor- 
ruption, which  occasioned  the  deluge,  relate  to  par- 
ticular periods,  circumstances,  and  characters,  and  are 
no  more  to  be  considered  as  the  genuine  history  of  the 
human  heart,  in  its  habitual  dispositions,  than  storms, 
tempests  and  pestilence,  indicate  the  general  state  of 



the  atmosphere ;  or  conflagrations  indicate  the  natural 
malignity  of  fire. 

It  is  an  acknowledged  maxim,  corruptio  optimi  est 
pessima.  Whatever  possesses  very  limited  powers, 
cannot  prove,  in  its  worst  estate,  extensively  detri- 
mental ;  whatever  possesses  extensive  powers,  how- 
.  ever  excellent,  may  in  certain  situations  be  rendered 
dreadful.  Those  powers  and  propensities  character- 
istic of  the  human  mind,  which  in  their  natural  and 
placid  operations  are  productive  of  much  good,  con- 
stitute the  bonds  of  society,  relieve  distresses,  and 
advance  happiness  a  thousand  ways,  may,  by  being 
perverted,  spread  desolation  and  horrour.  But  these 
perversions  are  extraordinaries  ;  they  are  excesses, 
which  distort  and  deform  the  human  heart,  and  not 
faithful  portraits  of  its  real  character,  or  native  pro- 

In  the  midst  of  the  greatest  excesses  and  most 
flagrant  immoralities,  much  good  is  still  observable. 
In  the  worst  of  times  there  are  many  laudable  excep- 
tions to  the  general  depravity  of  character,  and  in  the 
worst  of  characters  some  remaining  virtues.  Vice 
being  not  only  pernicious  in  its  tendency,  but  often 
quick  in  its  effects,  alarms,  strikes,  and  we  instantly 
complain.  Virtue  being  in  its  nature  placid,  and,  like 
our  aliments,  productive  of  habitual  health  by  imper- 
ceptible operations,  in  its  usual  tenour  scarcely  pro- 
duces an  encomium.  It  is  some  extraordinary  and 
almost  romantic  virtue  alone,  that  has  power  to  arouse 


our  attention.  These  are  facts,  which  cannot  be  de- 
nied ;  but  they  could  not  exist,  if  the  doctrine  of 
original  sin,  as  stated  in  catechisms,  were  true  ;  they 
could  not  exist,  if  man  were  naturally  inclined  to  hate 
both  God  and  his  neighbour ;  if  he  were  incapable  of 
doing  any  good,  and  if  he  cannot  avoid  sinning,  more 
than  a  bad  tree  can  be  productive  of  good  fruit ;  or 
if  the  human  heart  were  "  tainted  with  sin,  radically, 
and  to  the  very  core."  If  this  were  the  wretched 
state  of  man,  the  pollution  would  be  universal  through- 
out the  species,  and  so  complete  in  each  individual, 
that  our  natures  would  exhibit  a  mass  of  corruption 
inconsistent  with  a  state  of  society.  We  should  be 
as  the  fierce  beasts  of  the  forests  ;  and  the  "  pesti- 
lence," instead  of  "walking  in  darkness,"  would  stalk 
forth  at  noonday. 

No  one,  who  has  studied  the  heart  of  man  free 
from  the  bias  of  systematic  prejudices,  has  been  able 
to  discover  such  universal  marks  of  innate  depravity. 
Every  attentive  observer  will  contemplate  a  great  va- 
riety of  excellent  qualities  diffused  over  the  human 
species.  He  will  notice  that  where  the  mind  has 
been  properly  informed,  and  where  self-love  is  not 
predominant  to  a  shameful  excess,  it  knows  not  the 
dominion  of  evil  propensities  ;  nor  will  he  perceive 
the  smallest  traces  of  inherent,  unprovoked,  heredita- 
ry malice.  He  will  perceive  that  in  every  case, 
where  this  calumniated  mind  has  emerged  from  igno- 
rance, and  has  acquired  the  power  of  discrimination. 

298  LETTERS   ON 

it  learns  to  know  what  is  right,  it  acquires  a  delicate 
sense  of  what  is  right,  loves  and  approves  of  it,  se- 
verely censures  and  reprobates  its  contrary,  unless 
some  selfish  pursuit,  or  ardent  desire  of  immediate 
gratification,  shall  have  hardened  the  heart,  for  the 
instant,  or  perverted  the  judgment.  We  have  in- 
stances innumerable  in  the  history  of  human  life, 
where  the  benevolent  principle  operates  with  wonder- 
ful energy  ;  in  which  the  human  mind  manifests  itself 
to  be  liberal,  generous,  compassionate,  forgiving  ;  in 
which  it  has  been  impelled  by  exquisite  sympathy  to 
brave  dangers,  and  face  death  itself,  in  order  to  suc- 
cour the  distressed.  But  as  this  subject  has  been  so 
well  treated  by  another  writer,  I  will  urge  it  no 

You  have  only  two  ways  of  solving  this  difficulty  ; 
the  first  is,  to  ascribe  every  remaining  good  observ- 
able in  the  unregenerate  heart,  to  the  influence  of 
divine  grace.  But  this  will  render  the  grace  of  God 
much  more  diffused  than  is  consistent  with  your  gene- 
ral system.  It  will  break  down  that  barrier,  which  is 
so  assiduously  erected  between  the  real  christian  and 
the  unconverted  ;  and  yet,  if  the  mere  moral  man  and 
nominal  christian  be  supposed  destitute  of  these  divine 
influences,  to  what  can  we  ascribe  the  good  qualities 
so  frequently  observable  in  the  professedly  wicked, 
which,  in  some  instances,  have  put  the  professed 
people  of  God  themselves  out  of  countenance  ? 

*  See  Belsham's  Review  of  Mr  Wilberforce's  Treatise,  Letter  IV. 


The  second  method  is  to  deny  the  facts ;  and,  in 
the  face  of  the  strongest  evidence,  to  assert,  with  the 
Walloon  church,  that  all  the  works  of  the  natural 
man  are  vicious  in  themselves,  consequently  that  they 
must  displease  God,  and  be  condemned  by  him  ;  that 
its  best  deeds  are  only  splendida  peccata  ;  and  how- 
ever beautiful  they  may  appear  to  the  undistinguish- 
ing  eye,  they  are  inevitably  sinful,  because  the  heart 
is  corrupt.  But  this  mode  of  evading  the  difficulty 
is  a  sacrifice  to  hypothesis,  which  no  one  who  pre- 
tends to  reason,  will  ever  admit.  Predetermined 
that  the  doctrine  of  universal  corruption  must  be  true, 
and  shall  be  true,  the  supporters  of  such  an  opinion 
render  themselves  wilfully  blind  to  the  strongest  evi- 
dences of  the  contrary.  They  resemble  some  disci- 
ples of  the  acataleptic,  or  incomprehensible  school, 
among  the  ancients,  who  denied  the  reality  of  motion, 
because  its  existence  would  entirely  confute  their 
system.  Common  sense  knows  not  of  any  splendid 
sins,  excepting  such  actions  as  are  performed  with  a 
design  to  impose  upon  mankind,  or  which  spring  from 
unworthy  motives.  Ambition,  vanity,  hypocrisy,  may 
he  guilty  of  them  ;  but  where  the  heart  of  man  is  in- 
cited by  the  love  of  man  to  deeds  of  justice,  liberali- 
ty, compassion,  and  mercy,  they  must  be  sterling. 
Such  deeds  cannot  be  counterfeit,  and  he  that  gives 
them  the  name,  knows  not  the  nature  of  coin. 

You  strenuously  maintain,  Sir,  the  necessity  of  re- 
generating grace ;  you  acknowledge  this  grace  to  be 


perfectly  free  in  its  operations,  and  yet  you  inform  the 
poor  impenitent  sinner,  that  he  must  earnestly  suppli- 
cate for  its  communications  ;  but  according  to  the 
principles  now  advanced,  this  very  prayer,  proceed- 
ing from  a  corrupt  heart,  must  be  offensive  to  the 
Deity,  a  punishable  sin  ;  the  humblest  supplication 
which  the  natural  man  can  utter,  instead  of  procuring 
the  desired  blessing,  may  render  it  still  more  remote. 
If  your  good  sense  should  preserve  you  from  such  an 
absurd  extreme,  then  you  must  be  compelled  to  ad- 
mit, that  the  natural  man  is  able,  without  any  imme- 
diate interposition  of  divine  grace,  occasionally  to 
imitate  the  good  works  of  the  true  children  of  God 
so  closely,  that  it  is  impossible  to  distinguish  the  one 
from  the  other  ;  and  the  carnal  man,  unpurged  from 
the  corruptions  of  the  fall,  becomes  a  formidable  rival 
to  the  spiritual  man,  with  all  his  superiour  advantages  ; 
consequently  this  grace  is  not  so  absolutely  necessary 
as  you  have  conceived  ;  or  it  is  more  liberally  diffused 
than  your  system  can  possibly  grant. 

The  assertion,  that  we  are  naturally  prone  to  hate 
both  God  and  man,  is  also  an  extravagant  assertion. 
Considered  in  an  absolute,  unqualified  sense,  it  is  a 
stigma  which  reflects  dishonour  upon  the  hypothesis 
which  gave  it  birth,  or  upon  the  hearts  of  the  theolo- 
gians who  first  gave  it  a  place  in  their  creeds. 

It  is  granted  that  our  commerce  with  the  world 
presents  us  with  too  many  instances  of  jealousies, 
envyings,  malice,  revenge,  he.  generated  from  rival- 


ships,  the  disappointment  of  unreasonable  desires, 
irritations  at  supposed  injuries  ;  but  with  no  instances 
whatever  of  inherent,  hereditary,  unprovoked  malice; 
and  whenever  these  passions  are  carried  to  excess, 
whatever  be  their  cause,  common  phraseology  passes 
an  encomium  upon  our  species,  by  terming  the  dispo- 
sition inhuman. 

The  hatred,  which  wicked  men  may  be  said  to  en- 
tertain against  their  maker,  is  also  an  acquired,  not  a 
natural  vice.  It  can  only  proceed  from  the  strength 
of  corrupt  affections,  or  from  their  entertaining  erro- 
neous ideas  of  the  divine  character.  When  inordi- 
nate desires  arise,  which  the  subject  is  determined  to 
indulge  at  all  events,  the  precepts  of  religion  and 
morality  are  rendered  irksome  to  him ;  the  idea  of 
the  divine  presence  and  inspection  becomes  as  insup- 
portable, as  the  presence  of  a  tutor  or  monitor  to  a 
disciple,  whose  mind  is  bent  upon  some  illicit  pursuit. 
Under  the  influence  of  this  perverted  disposition,  he 
may  possibly  "say  in  his  heart,  There  is  no  God;"  or 
becoming  hardened  in  his  iniquity,  he  may  inquire, 
"  Who  is  the  Lord,  that  I  should  serve  him  ?"  But 
this  is  an  adventitious,  perverted  state  of  mind.  It 
is  so  far  from  being  natural  to  man,  that  many  con- 
flicts must  be  maintained  before  this  conquest  of  pro- 
faneness  can  become  complete.  The  infant  mind 
knows  it  not ;  early  youth  knows  it  not ;  it  is  alone 
the  dreadful  acquirement  of  the  determined  sinner. 

302  LETTERS    ON 

Again,  unworthy  conceptions  formed  of  the  divine 
character,  may  also  inspire  an  indifference,  perhaps  an 
hatred.  When  men  consider  their  Creator  altogether 
such  an  one  as  themselves,  it  is  not  surprising  that  they 
should  lose  their  respect  for  him  ;  and  those  frivolities 
which  are  deemed  essential  to  his  service,  naturally 
bring  his  service  into  disrepute.  This  has  been 
already  considered  as  a  principal  cause  of  the  atheism 
so  prevalent  in  a  neighbouring  nation.  Some  dog- 
mata, also  deemed  essential  to  Christianity,  by  repre- 
senting the  Deity  as  implacable,  revengeful,  severe 
beyond  the  bounds  of  reason  and  justice,  are  not  cal- 
culated to  inspire  love  or  filial  veneration.  Love  has 
for  its  object,  qualities  which  appear  amiable  and  at- 
tractive. Hatred,  the  reverse  ;  its  objects  are  quali- 
ties apparently  injurious  and  repugnant.  According 
to  the  ideas  cherished  of  the  moral  perfections  of  the 
Deity,  will  be  the  habitual  state  of  mind  concerning 
him.  Is  there  a  being,  can  such  a  being  exist,  who 
habitually  contemplates  the  great  God  as  the  source 
of  every  possible  excellence,  as  the  benevolent  Father 
of  universal  nature,  and  yet  entertain  the  disposition 
of  hatred  against  him  ?  If  indeed  any  one  should 
become  a  proselyte  to  the  doctrine  for  which  you  are 
so  strong  an  advocate,  without  presuming  to  entertain 
the  hopes  of  being  one  of  the  elect ;  if  he  believes 
that  he  shall  finally  be  condemned  for  sins  committed 
before  his  existence,  and  for  actual  transgressions 
which  he  could  not  possibly  avoid ;  while  he  beholds 


others  not  more  deserving,  made  participants  of  that 
grace  which  is  denied  to  him  ; — you  may  urge  upon 
him  the  sovereignty  of  God,  with  all  your  eloquence ; 
it  is  an  attribute  he  will  never  adore ;  nor  can  you 
point  out  to  him  any  one  that  is  entitled  to  his  love. 
He  may  hate  ;  such  an  offence  may  come  ;  but  wo 
to  the  principles  that  gave  it  existence  ! 

You  have  cited  the  humours  and  froward  disposi- 
tions of  children  as  proofs  of  your  hypothesis.  Take 
their  sudden  gushes  of  passion,  or  occasional  instances 
of  perverseness,  as  your  argument,  and  we  will  op- 
pose the  innocence,  simplicity,  amiableness,  confiden- 
tial friendships  habitual  to  them,  in  support  of  ours. 
But  these  concessions  are  much  too  liberal,  for  we 
may  securely  maintain,  that  the  greater  part  of  that 
frowardness  of  temper,  you  behold  as  a  mark  of 
original  depravity,  is  to  be  ascribed  to  a  perverse  edu- 
cation from  the  earliest  infancy.  That  sublime  fabu- 
list Milton,  whose  poetic  fictions,  concerning  the  fall, 
have  frequently  been  mistaken  for  Scripture  history, 
represents  Satan  infusing  pernicious  dreams  into  the 
ear  of  Eve,  while  sleeping  in  the  bower  ;  he  may 
possibly  have  borrowed  the  idea  from  the  conduct  of 
mothers  and  nurses,  who  so  frequently  infuse  poison 
into  the  minds  of  their  infants  while  they  are  yet  in 
their  cradles.  One  of  the  first  perceptions  of  the 
infant,  is  its  unbounded  influence  over  its  indiscreet 
guardians,  whose  fond  indulgences  soon  generate,  in- 
crease, and  multiply  perverse  desires,  until  the  feeblest 

o04  LETTERS    ON 

of  all  beings  becomes  the  most  tyrannical.  Thus  do 
their  ignorance  and  imprudence  pervert  the  young 
mind  at  the  earliest  period,  and  when  the  pernicious 
fruits  appear,  the  mischief  is  unjustly  thrown  from 
themselves  back  to  our  primitive  ancestors.  When, 
Sir,  you  contemplate  the  malignant  effects  of  a  per- 
verse education,  at  every  period  of  early  life,  and 
behold  the  degree  of  good,  powerfully  operative  in  the 
human  mind,  under  every  possible  disadvantage,  will 
you  not  acknowledge,  that  Providence  has  infused  a 
large  share  of  virtuous  disposition  into  the  human 
heart,  in  order  to  counteract  the  mischiefs,  which  the 
professed  guardians  of  the  human  heart  are  hourly 
committing  ? 

Before  we  quit  the  infantile  character,  permit  me 
to  call  to  your  recollection  a  passage  in  Scripture,  the 
beauty  of  which  is  peculiarly  striking.  It  is  in  Mat. 
xix.  verses  13,  14.  "Then  were  there  brought  unto 
him  [unto  Jesus]  little  children  ;  that  he  should  put 
his  hands  on  them  and  pray  ;  and  the  disciples  re- 
buked them;  but  Jesus  said,  Suffer  little  children,  and 
forbid  them  not,  to  come  unto  me ;  for  of  such  is  the 
kingdom  of  heaven." 

What,  Sir,  could  Jesus,  the  Son  of  an  incensed 
God,  the  second  person  in  the  Trinity,  and  who,  as 
God,  must  be,  equally  with  the  Father,  offended  at 
the  first  transgression,  in  which  these  children  were 
involved  ;  whose  vindictive  justice  also  required  the 
eternal  punishment  of  these  little  heirs  of  wrath,  these 


embryos  of  iniquity,  these  tainted  germs  of  every 
thing  that  is  vile  and  worthless ;  could  he  invite  them 
to  approach  his  presence  ?  Could  he  pronounce,  Of 
such  is  the  kingdom  of  heaven  ?  Why,  Sir,  your 
creed  tells  you,  that  "  all  mankind,  by  the  fall  of  our 
first  parents,  lost  communion  with  God,  are  under  his 
wrath  and  curse,  and  so  made  liable  to  the  pains  of 
hell  forever!" 

Oh,  Reason,  how  art  thou  humbled  by  system, 
when  compelled  to  employ  thy  powers  to  reconcile 
contrarieties  like  these  ! 

Much,  much  more  could  be  urged  upon  this  sub- 
ject ;  but  if  you  dare  to  consult  your  reason,  the 
above  must  prove  sufficient.  If  not,  we  will  only 
subjoin  that  those  very  Scriptures,  the  perversion  of 
which  constitutes  the  foundation  of  your  faith  in  uni- 
versal depravity,  absolutely  require  you  to  renounce 
it.  They  speak  as  frequently  and  as  copiously  of 
righteousness,  uprightness,  perfection,  purity  of  heart 
observable  among  mankind,  as  they  are  free  of  their 
corrections  and  reproofs  at  the  instances  of  degene- 
racy. "A  wicked  man,"  says  Solomon,  "  hardeneth 
his  face  ;  but  as  for  the  upright,  he  directs  his 
way."*  "  Judge  me,  O  Lord,  according  to  my 
righteousness"  says  the  very  David,  who  was  con- 
ceived in  sin,  "  and  according  to  mine  integrity  that 
is  in   me.     My  defence  is  of  God,  who  saveth  the 

*  Prov.  xxi.  29. 



upright  in  heart."*  Again,  "  Shout  for  joy,  ye  that 
are  upright  in  heart ;  all  the  upright  in  heart  shall 
glory. "f  "  Mark  the  perfect  man,  and  behold  the  up- 
right, for  the  end  of  that  man  is  peace. "J 

In  the  midst  of  the  general  depravity  which  occa- 
sioned the  deluge,  it  is  said  of  Noah,  that  he  was  "a 
just  man,  and  perfect  in  his  generation. "§  Although 
the  mistaken  friends  of  Job  indulged  their  unjust  cen- 
sures against  him,  yet  the  sacred  historian  assures  us, 
that  he  was  "perfect  and  upright, one  that  feared  God, 
and  eschewed  evil."||  And  Solomon  bore  testimony 
of  David,  that  he  walked  "  in  righteousness  and  up- 
rightness of  heart  before  God. "IT 

Many  other  passages  might  be  quoted  of  a  similar 
nature,  and  were  we  to  adopt  your  mode  of  reason- 
ing, we  should  infer  from  such  declarations,  that  man- 
kind are  naturally  perfect  and  upright.  You  would 
then  be  compelled  to  qualify  and  explain,  in  order  to 
protect  your  hypothesis.  Permit  us  to  use  the  same 
liberty  with  the  passages  you  have  advanced,  in  order 
to  protect  human  nature  and  its  Author  from  being 
most  unjustly  libelled,  and  the  contest  will  be  termi- 
nated. We  shall  meet  as  friends  on  the  centre  of  the 
plain ;  we  shall  mutually  acknowledge  that  both  Scrip- 
ture and  experience  unite  to  represent  mankind  as 
imperfect  creatures,  as  a  wonderful  compound  of  good 
and  evil ;  that  in  the  midst  of  much  depravity  great 

*  t  Ps.  vii.  8,  10.  t  Ps.  xxxii.  11.  t  Ps  xxxvii.  37.  §  Gen.  vi.  9 
j|  Job,  i.  1.       IT  I  Kings,  iii.  6. 


excellencies  are  discernible ;  while  many  infirmities 
adhere  to  the  characters,  which  the  Scriptures  them- 
selves pronounce  to  be  perfect. 


Doctrine  of  Original  Depravity  can  be  reconciled 
neither  with  the  Physical,  nor  Metaphysical  Struc- 
ture of  Man.  At  variance  with  other  Doctrines 
of  the  Calvinistic  Scheme. 


Having  attempted  to  remove  those  obstacles,  which 
mistaken  ideas  of  Scripture  evidence,  and  of  the 
acknowledged  facts  observable  in  human  life,  have 
opposed  to  your  judging  more  favourably  of  human 
nature,  and  which  have  induced  you  to  adopt  the  most 
inadmissible  system  mortals  ever  have  invented,  in 
order  to  solve  apparent  difficulties,  we  may  now,  it  is 
hoped,  without  offence,  approach  the  system  itself; 
and  we  shall  venture  to  examine,  without  reserve, 
whether  it  be  consistent  with  reason  or  common 

The  hypothesis,  which  you  urge  upon  our  belief  as 
the  proper  foundation  of  religion,  natural  and  reveal- 
ed, is  that  man  was  originally  possessed  of  every 
moral  and  intellectual  quality,  before  he  had  eaten  the 

308  LETTERS    Otf 

forbidden  fruit ;  that,  in  consequence  of  this  act,  the 
powers  of  his  mind  became  darkened,  his  will  per- 
verted ;  that  he  was  rendered  prone  to  every  evil 
thought  and  wicked  deed  ;  and  also,  that  he  commu- 
nicated this  corrupt  and  depraved  disposition  to  all 
his  offspring,  without  a  single  exception. 

You  must  allow,  that  this  total  degeneracy  of  our 
natures  can  only  be  ascribed  to  one  or  other  of  the 
following  causes ;  it  must  have  proceeded  from  an 
absolute  decree  of  heaven,  or  arbitrary  exertion  of 
divine  power,  introducing  some  immediate  and  mira- 
culous change  in  the  very  constitution  of  our  first 
parents,  in  consequence  of  their  conduct ;  or  from 
the  agency  of  an  evil  spirit  possessing  inherent  pow- 
ers, or  receiving  permission  from  God,  to  contaminate 
the  parent  stock,  and  the  germs  of  existence,  with 
every  evil  principle ;  or  the  change  itself  must  have 
taken  place  by  the  operation  of  some  physical  cause ; 
that  is,  there  must  have  been  some  natural  relation 
between  the  offence  of  our  first  parents,  and  the  de- 
generate effects  ascribed  to  it.  These  are  the  only 
alternatives  that  present  themselves. 

1.  The  first  of  these  positions  does  not  appear  to 
be  maintained  by  any  advocate  for  your  system. 
The  whole  blame  is  universally  laid  upon  man ;  and 
the  consequences  of  his  disobedience  are  considered 
as  a  just  punishment  for  the  abuse  of  his  free  will. 
It  is  even  attempted  to  vindicate  the  wisdom  and  jus- 
tice of  God,  in  thus  ordaining  that  the  eternal  fate  of 


myriads  should  be  made  to  depend  upon  the  single 
act  of  an  individual,  by  the  allegation,  that  if  our  first 
parents  had  proved  obedient  to  this  test,  their  posteri- 
ty would  have  enjoyed  perfection  and  felicity  equal 
to  the  depravity  and  misery  in  which  they  are  now 
involved.  Indeed,  the  contrary  sentiment  could  not  be 
adopted  without  an  accusation  being  brought  against 
their  Maker,  of  voluntarily  becoming  the  immediate 
author  of  sin  and  misery  ;  without  supposing  that  the 
greatest  miracle,  ever  wrought  by  Omnipotence,  was 
called  forth  for  the  worst  of  purposes  ;  that  the  Deity, 
finding  himself  disappointed  in  his  gracious  designs  to 
render  man  perfect  and  happy,  should,  from  a  spirit 
of  revenge,  inflict  the  greatest  curse  upon  man,  which 
his  all-comprehensive  mind  could  devise. 

2.  Nor  do  they  attribute  to  Satan  any  other  power, 
than  that  of  seduction.  They  suppose  that  this  evil 
spirit,  jealous  of  the  felicity  in  reserve  for  the  newly 
created  favourites  of  heaven,  determined  to  counter- 
act the  beneficent  designs  of  the  Creator.  But  that 
he  was  restrained  from  the  use  of  any  other  means 
than  that  of  artifice  ;  that  he  perverted  the  judgment, 
vitiated  the  desires,  and  gained  a  complete  conquest 
over  the  will  of  Adam  and  Eve,  by  his  wiles ;  know- 
ing that  the  natural  consequence  of  their  disobedience 
would  be  the  ruin  of  themselves  and  their  posterity. 

3.  Nothing  remains,  therefore,  to  explain  this  phe- 
nomenon, but  the  influence  of  physical  causes.  They, 
who  admit  the  doctrine  of  hereditary  depravity,  are 

310  LETTERS    ON 

compelled  to  believe,  that  the  sin  of  our  first  parents 
so  changed  and  contaminated  their  natures,  that  they 
were  rendered  incapable  of  procreating  such  a  race 
of  perfect  and  happy  beings,  as  would  have  issued 
from  their  loins,  had  they  continued  obedient  to  the 
divine  commands ;  that  their  natural  powers  were  so 
instantaneously  changed,  as  to  communicate  to  their 
innumerable  progeny  the  guilt  of  their  own  sin,  and  a 
propensity  to  commit  every  other. 

Let  us  now  examine  whether  this  be  possible. 

Human  depravity  is  ascribed  by  the  hypothesis  to 
the  sin  of  Adam  and  Eve  in  eating  the  forbidden 
fruit.  Whether  we  consider  the  account  of  the  first 
transgression  given  us  by  Moses,  as  allegorical,  or  as 
a  literal  fact,  criminality  of  conduct  must  equally  con- 
sist in  disobedience  to  the  divine  command.  The 
disobedience  was  manifested  by  the  commission  of  an 
act  in  opposition  to  the  divine  prohibition,  which  in- 
cluded in  it  a  previous  disposition,  prompting  to  the 
commission,  and  a  voluntary  compliance  with  this 
disposition.  Criminality  cannot  be  attached  to  the 
act  itself,  simply  considered  ;  for,  exclusive  of  the 
prohibition,  it  would  have  been  no  greater  crime  to 
eat  of  the  tree  of  knowledge  of  good  and  evil,  than 
of  any  other  tree  in  the  garden.  Nor  could  guilt  be 
imputed  to  the  first  impulse  of  desire  ;  for  although 
the  height  of  perfection  may  consist  in  the  elevation 
of  mind  above  temptation,  yet  to  check  an  irregular 
propensity,  or  rather  a  natural  propensity,  rendered 


criminal  alone  by  superiour  authority,  to  check  this 
from  reverence  to  that  authority,  is  justly  deemed  a 
virtue.  Criminality  must  have  commenced,  there- 
fore, with  the  yielding  of  the  mind  to  the  temptation, 
that  is,  with  the  resolution  taken  to  disobey.  It  is 
consequently  evident  that  Adam,  in  his  best  estate, 
did  not  possess  the  high  perfection  which  would  have 
placed  him  above  an  illicit  propensity  ;  and  it  is  no 
less  evident,  that  he  had  virtually  fallen  from  a  state 
of  purity  and  innocence  of  heart,  before  he  partook  of 
the  forbidden  fruit.  His  mind  was  rendered  depraved 
by  the  determination  of  his  will,  before  he  actually 
committed  a  deed,  which  is  said  to  have  plunged  all 
mankind  in  depravity.  The  act  itself  was  simply  an 
indication,  that  he  had  not  virtue  enough  to  resist  the 
temptation.  He  must  have  been  equally  guilty  in  the 
eyes  of  his  Judge,  had  some  miraculous  interference 
prevented  the  commission  of  it. 

Here,  by  the  way,  we  are  again  able  to  recognise 
parents  similar  to  their  offspring.  For  it  is  the  en- 
couraging and  yielding  to  irregular  desires,  which 
constitute  the  criminality  of  our  conduct.  This  is  an 
additional  evidence,  that  they  were  created  in  all  re- 
spects like  ourselves  ;  not  excepting  their  being  sub- 
ject to  temptations,  and  being  subdued  by  them. 

It  appears,  therefore,  from  the  above  considera- 
tions, that  the  dispositions  of  our  first  parents  were 
perverted,  before  the  actual  commission  of  the  deed, 
to  which  the  whole  evil  of  the  fall  is  invariably  ascrib- 


ed.  Are  we  then  to  imagine,  that  the  depraved  dis- 
position generated  in  their  minds  by  the  temptation,  is 
the  primitive  cause  of  all  this  hereditary  mischief? 
Could  the  indulgence  of  this  one  propensity  produce, 
by  any  physical  laws  of  the  constitution,  such  a  singu- 
lar change  in  their  natures,  that  they  should  be  ne- 
cessitated by  this  change,  to  procreate  a  race  of  beings 
directly  opposite  in  character,  to  the  original  nature 
infused  by  the  immediate  power  of  the  Almighty  .? 
It  is  allowed  that  a  prevailing  cast  of  character  may 
be  transmitted  to  the  immediate  offspring ;  but  the 
hypothesis  attributes  infinitely  greater  force  to  one 
particular  desire,  excited  and  gratified  in  a  single  in- 
stance, in  opposition  to  the  general  character,  than  to 
the  influence  of  the  general  character  itself.  Could 
this  singularity,  which  has  such  a  miraculous  appear- 
ance, proceed  from  any  physical  law  .?  Are  we  to 
conceive,  that  every  other  propensity,  with  which  our 
great  ancestors  were  endowed,  was  at  once  annihi- 
lated, or  at  once  rendered  inert  by  the  momentary 
indulgence  of  a  single  desire  ?  Are  we  to  suppose 
that  a  particular  virus  was  contained  in  this  illicit  de- 
sire, potent  enough  to  spread  itself  over  the  human 
race  for  the  space  of  so  many  thousand  years,  pro- 
ducing in  the  minds  of  men,  not  a  single  and  similar 
propensity  to  disobey  an  individual  command,  but  a 
congeries  of  perverse  dispositions  infinitely  various, 
and  numbers  of  them  directly  opposite  to  each  other 
in  their  natures  and  qualities,  and  that  no  virtuous 


propensity  should  be  transmitted  to  check  the  conta- 
gion ? 

Again,  it  is  admitted  by  our  opponents  that  Adam 
and  Eve  were  blessed  with  sincere  repentance,  that 
they  were  informed  of  a  promised  Messiah,  that  they 
possessed  a  saving  faith  in  him,  and  thus  obtained  the 
pardon  of  their  sin.  Why  was  not  this  penitent  tem- 
per propagated  in  a  similar  manner,  and  diffused  over 
the  human  race,  that  the  dangerous  and  deep  wound 
inflicted  upon  our  natures  might  also  have  been  heal- 
ed ?  Do  not  potent  remedies  discovered  by  mortals, 
by  healing  the  diseases  contracted  by  the  vicious 
irregularities  of  parents,  prevent  their  baneful  effects 
from  being  transmitted  to  their  offspring  .?  Shall  we 
suppose  a  provisional  power  implanted  in  our  natures 
of  receiving  transmitted  benefits  in  one  case,  which 
is  incidental,  partial,  and  of  inferiour  importance,  and 
not  in  the  other,  which  is  infinite  in  extent  and  dura- 
tion ?  The  bane  is  asserted  to  contaminate  the  whole 
species,  and  to  expose  them  to  eternal  misery,  with- 
out their  deriving  the  least  advantage  from  the  anti- 
dote of  imputed  repentance,  while  the  great  federal 
offender  himself  is  supposed  to  escape  with  the  slight 
punishment  of  transient  sufferings  and  temporal  death  ! 
Can  a  position  more  extravagant  and  absurd  be  de- 
vised by  the  utmost  efforts  of  human  ingenuity  ? 

There  can  be  no  answer  to  these  queries,  without 
recurring  to  a  proposition  that  has  been  disavowed  ; 
without  ascribing  the   cause   to   a  miraculous   inter- 

314  LETTERS   ON 

ference  ;  or  to  some  original  law  in  their  make,  de- 
signedly planted  there  for  the  most  pernicious  pur- 
poses ;  by  means  of  which  this  perfect  pair,  and  in 
them  the  whole  human  race,  have  been  rendered  prone 
to  every  evil,  by  one  single  incident,  while  the  physical 
influence  of  other  desires  and  propensities  is  not 
permitted  to  counteract  the  mischief.  This  is  resolv- 
ing the  consequences  of  the  fall  into  the  arbitrary  ap- 
pointment of  Heaven,  and  directly  charging  God  with 
being  the  intentional  author  of  universal  depravity. 

For  the  above  reasons  it  cannot  be  admitted,  that 
this  particular  desire,  generated  in  the  mind  of  Adam 
before  the  commission  of  the  deed  itself,  should  be 
propagated  to  his  posterity,  and  branch  out  into  an 
innumerable  multitude  of  illicit  desires,  according  to 
the  operation  of  any  physical  law  in  his  constitution. 

Would  we  ascribe  the  baneful  influence  of  the 
crime  to  the  act  itself,  we  should  still  be  at  a  loss  to 
discover  the  most  distant  connexion  between  the  sup- 
posed cause  and  the  dire  effects. 

It  has  already  been  observed  that  the  act  would 
have  been  indifferent,  had  it  not  been  a  trespass  upon 
the  divine  prohibition.  As  such  it  was  the  consum- 
mation of  guilt.  It  totally  obliterated  every  title  to 
the  character  of  innocence.  The  unfortunate  pair 
could  no  longer  rejoice  in  the  simplicity  and  purity 
of  their  minds,  or  enjoy  that  self-complacency  and 
confidence  in  the  divine  favour,  which  a  triumph  over 
the  temptation  would  have  inspired.     The  dreadful 


penalty  was  now  incurred.  The  deed  once  perpe- 
trated inevitably  exposed  them  to  the  threatened 
punishment.  To  the  illicit  desire  excited  before  the 
actual  commission,  succeeded  terrour,  Shame,  re- 
morse, self-reproach,  and  repentance;  which,  how- 
ever it  might  mitigate  the  divine  wrath,  could  not 
restore  their  innocence,  or  replace  them  in  the  state 
of  conscious  integrity  from  which  they  had  fallen. 
Such  are  the  bitter  fruits  they  had  gathered  from  the 
tree  of  knowledge  of  good  and  evil. 

In  a  state  perfectly  similar  may  all  the  children  of 
Adam  be  placed,  under  a  consciousness  of  guilt,  and 
in  the  fearful  expectation  of  the  righteous  judgments 
of  God.  To  this  they  are  rendered  liable  by  the  very 
constitution  of  their  natures,  as  being,  like  their  first 
parents,  moral,  conscious,  responsible  beings;  and  not 
from  any  other  inheritance  than  that  of  being  of  the 
same  species  as  their  great,  ancestors.  Thus,  by  con- 
templating all  the  moral  evils  arising  immediately 
from  the  commission  of  the  act,  it  appears  that  they 
must  have  been  personal;  such  as  were  the  necessary 
result  of  their  conduct,  and  relation  to  their  Creator; 
and  such  as  can  only  be  experienced  by  the  offspring 
that  imitates  their  example.  Nor  could  the  act  itself 
indicate  any  thing  that  had  a  natural  or  physical  ten- 
dency to  implant  those  seeds  of  universal  depravity 
ascribed  to  the  grand  transgression.  Shall  we  attri- 
bute the  evil  to  the  nature  of  the  fruit, 


Of  that  forbidden  tree,  whose  mortal  taste 
Brought  death  into  the  world,  and  all  our  woe  ? 

Will  this  solve  the  difficulty  ?  Could  the  tree  of 
knowledge  of  good  and  evil  secrete  from  its  juices, 
and  deposit  in  the  fruit,  nothing  but  a  malignant  virus, 
without  any  mixture  of  the  good  ?  Could  its  intoxi- 
cating qualities  diffuse  the  most  opposite  frenzies  over 
an  innumerable  progeny,  and  transmit  them  down  to 
the  latest  posterity?  Is  it  owing  to  the  subtile  proper- 
ties of  this  fruit,  that  even  to  the  present  hour  the 
most  opposite  vices  shall  be  generated;  that  one  child 
of  Adam  shall  be  disposed  to  the  sin  of  avarice,  an- 
other to  that  of  extravagance  and  dissipation  ;  that 
this  person  is  timid  to  pusillanimity,  and  his  neighbour 
rash  and  impetuous ;  that  one  character  is  treacher- 
ous, another  overbearing  and  tyrannical  ?  Did  this 
also  infuse  propensities  to  ebriety,  lewdness,  fraud, 
and  deceit;  to  envy,  groundless  suspicions,  deliberate 
malevolence,  cruelty,  or  vindictive  anger  ?  In  short, 
did  it,  in  reality,  operate  in  the  manner  fabulously  re- 
corded of  Pandora's  box,  and  shed  over  human  na- 
ture a  medley  of  evils  various  and  opposite,  containing 
within  itself  at  the  same  instant  the  germs  of  all  those 
wicked  and  contrary  propensities,  which  have  dis- 
graced and  tormented  our  natures  ? 

But  whichever  of  the  modes  specified  you  may 
adopt,  as  the  physical  cause  of  human  depravity,  are 
we  to  extend  the  moral  effects  of  the  fall  beyond  the 
human  race  ?     Did  it  exert  its  morbid  influence  over 


all  animated  beings  ?  We  perceive  something  in  the 
brute  creation  strongly  resembling  those  propensities, 
which  constitute,  in  certain  circumstances,  the  vices 
and  imperfections  of  men.  Did  the  ruins  of  the  fall 
extend  to  these  also  ?  Did  it  curse  the  hare,  and 
many  other  animals,  with  a  timidity  which  keeps  them 
perpetually  upon  the  watch;  give  ferocity  to  the  tiger; 
subtlety  to  the  fox ;  render  the  wolf  treacherous  and 
cruel ;  teach  the  insidious  spider  to  weave  its  wreb  for 
the  incautious  fly ;  impart  to  the  scorpion  its  deadly 
sting?  Did  it  impart  to  one  animal  its  unconquerable 
sloth  ;  or  infuse  into  another  its  hereditary  disposition 
to  gluttony  ?  Did  it  foment  strifes  and  quarrels 
among  animals  of  the  same  species ;  teach  mastiffs 
to  worry  each  other ;  inspire  the  gamecock  with 
persevering  hatred  against  its  antagonist,  and  arm  it 
with  spurs  for  the  contest ;  impart  to  various  animals 
a  degree  of  mutual  enmity,  as  often  as  they  become 
rivals  or  impediments  to  each  other  in  the  gratifica- 
tion of  their  appetites  ?  Did  it  create  birds  of  prey 
also,  and  diffuse  universal  hostility  over  the  finny 
tribe  ? 

If  your  answer  be  in  the  affirmative  ;  then  must 
you  acknowledge,  that  a  petulant  power  has  been  ex- 
erted by  the  Almighty  to  blast  innocent  natures,  in 
revenge  for  crimes  in  which  they  had  no  share,  for 
here  hereditary  propensity  could  not  take  place.  If 
your  answer  be  in  the  negative  ;  whence  came  these 
apparent  evils  in  the  brute  creation  ?     If  they  were 

318  LETTERS    ON 

originally  implanted  by  the  finger  of  God,  is  not  such 
a  constitution  of  things  as  contrary  to  our  primary 
notions  of  the  divine  character,  as  the  permission  of 
moral  evil  in  the  moral  world  ?  Since  characters  and 
dispositions,  so  contrary  to  our  ideas  of  rectitude  and 
innocence,  are  permitted  in  the  lower  ranks  of  life 
by  an  absolute  law  of  their  natures,  why  may  not 
that  peculiarly  susceptible  and  versatile  creature, man, 
whose  connexions  with  the  world  and  its  objects  are 
infinitely  more  ample  and  diversified,  become  inci- 
dentally subject  to  them  all,  without  the  imputation  of 
that  hereditary  depravity,  which  you  suspect  to  be  a 
deviation  from  the  primary  plan  ?  Why  may  we  not 
allow  his  various  propensities  to  be  with  him,  as  with 
the  lower  creation,  the  satellites  of  self-love,  the 
moral  depravity  of  which  consists  in  the  perversion  of 
desires  innocent  in  themselves,  in  the  criminal  choice 
of  objects,  or  undue  degrees  of  indulgence,  that  is, 
in  their  opposition  to  the  dictates  of  reason,  or  of  an 
express  command,  or  to  those  laws  of  benevolence, 
which  are  so  peculiarly  obligatory  upon  him,  as  a  ra- 
tional and  social  being  ? 

If  we  consider  the  subject  metaphysically,  we  shall 
be  presented  with  objections  not  less  formidable. 

You  have  manifested,  it  is  true,  a  degree  of  con- 
tempt for  metaphysics,  not  uncommon  to  those  who 
are  totally  unacquainted  with  the  science  ;  forgetting 
that  some  subjects  cannot  be  satisfactorily  treated  in 
any  other  manner.     But  let  it  be  remarked,  that  in 


cases  where  the  metaphysician  is  lost  in  his  abstrac- 
tions, and  returns  from  his  arduous  pursuits  dissatis- 
fied with  the  result,  yet  he  has  in  general  acquired  an 
accuracy  and  precision  in  his  ideas,  with  which  they 
are  little  acquainted,  who  have  never  applied  them- 
selves to  the  study.  However,  under  this  head,  we 
will  be  as  concise  as  possible. 

We  may  first  observe,  that  the  doctrine  is  not  very 
consistent  with  the  ideas  you  entertain  of  mind. 

It  is  singular  that  the  doctrine  of  hereditary  depra- 
vity should  alone  be  entertained  by  those,  who  are 
strenuous  advocates  for  the  spirituality  of  mind. 
Should  the  Materialist  adopt  the  system,  he  might 
claim  some  right  to  borrow  an  argument  from  the 
analogy  subsisting  between  one  material  substance 
and  another.  He  might  be  permitted  to  affix  a  more 
literal  signification  to  the  usual  terms  corruption  of 
human  nature,  the  contagion  of  sin,  &tc.  and  derive 
illustrations  from  the  fermentative  quality  and  expan- 
sive powers  of  leaven,  which  will  in  small  quantities 
diffuse  its  influence  over  a  large  mass  ;  or  from  the 
dairy,  when  he  observes  how  small  a  portion  of  an 
acrid  juice  is  able,  instantaneously,  to  change  a  large 
quantity  of  the  blandest  milk  into  a  hard,  coagulated 
substance.  His  only  task  will  be  to  prove,  that  the 
cases  are  perfectly  parallel;  and  that  dispositions  and 
actions  are  inevitably  contagious  to  mind,  independent 
of  the  will.  But  an  advocate  for  the  spirituality  of 
the  soul,  attentive  to  the  high  attributes  with  which 

320  LETTERS    ON 

he  clothes  this  spiritual  nature,  should  be  particularly 
cautious  before  he  asserts  that  a  momentary  desire,  of 
a  peculiar  nature,  excited  by  a  particular  temptation, 
can  be  infectious  to  kindred  minds,  while  they  were 
in  an  unconscious  state ;  and  that  this  disposition, 
being  infinitely  divisible  as  matter,  has  been  diffused 
over  infinitudes  of  minds  for  successive  generations.* 
Further,  the  abettors  of  this  system  ought  to  form 
precise  ideas  of  the  nature  of  sin,  and  of  mental  de- 
pravity, before  they  impute  either  to  the  unconscious 
principle.  The  only  malady  of  mind  consists  in  im- 
paired or  disordered  intellects,  depraved  desires,  and 
perverse  will.  The  former  is  by  universal  consent 
pronounced  to  be  a  misfortune,  not  a  crime,  because 
the  mind  is  purely  and  involuntarily  passive  ;  and  is 
not  this  precisely  the  case  with  the  primitive  temper 
and  disposition  with  which  we  are  generated?  Allow- 
ing the  definition  of  sin  to  be  "  any  want  of  conform- 
ity unto,  or  transgression  of  the  law  of  God,"  we 
ought  to  be  perfectly  clear  in  the  position,  that  this 
transgression,  or  want  of  conformity,  can  be  committed 
by  the  mind,  before  it  enjoys  any  knowledge  of  moral 
obligation.  If  we  should  deem  it  absurd  to  impute 
errours  in  judgment  to  mankind,  before  they  are 
capable  of  reasoning,  how  can  we  suppose  their  wills 
to  be  depraved  before  they  had  a  will,  or  charge  them 

[*  Two  or  three  paragraphs  are  here  omitted,  as  containing  an 
argument  not  very  obvious,  and  adding  little  strength  to  the  author? 
general  train  of  reasoning. — Ed-] 


with  being  guilty  of  Adam's  sin,  either  in  deed  or  by 
acquiescence,  before  they  had  power  to  act,  or  to 
testify  consent  ? 

Will  you  say  they  sinned  by  imputation  9  This  is 
impossible,  for  sin  is  a  personal  act ;  and  were  it 
possible,  the  imputation  itself  would  be  a  greater  in- 
justice in  the  imputer,  a  greater  violation  of  rectitude, 
than  could  be  committed  by  the  much  injured  inno- 
cent, even  after  he  had  acquired  the  power  of  actual 
transgression.  But  your  hypothesis  states,  that  the 
heart  itself  is  depraved,  rotten  to  the  core  !  Can  this 
statement  be  qualified  by  the  idea  of  imputation  9 

The  utmost,  that  can  possibly  be  ascribed  to  the 
human  mind,  is,  that  it  is  so  formed  as  in  certain  cir- 
cumstances it  will  indicate  itself  prone  to  the  com- 
mission of  evil.  But  such  a  conformation  in  itself 
has  no  more  culpability,  than  the  calamity  of  impair- 
ed intellects.  Let  the  natural  propensity  be  ever  so 
strong,  the  subject  must  be  as  innocent  of  guilt,  as 
the  embryo  of  a  tiger  is  void  of  cruelty,  before  it  has 
acquired  the  instinctive  ferocity  of  the  dam.  Virus 
itself  is  innoxious  in  an  inert  state.  Nor  could  the 
inert  virus  of  sin,  supposing  it  to  exist,  be  charged 
with  demerit.  This  title  must  be  suspended  until  it 
shall  burst  forth  into  actual  transgression. 

But  the  same  mind  is  so  formed,  that  in  certain 
circumstances  it  shows  itself  prone  to  good  also  ;  and 
why  may  not  this  fact  be  admitted  with  equal  pro- 
priety, as  an  evidence  of  the  universal  excellence  of 


our  natures  ?  Why  may  we  not  expatiate  upon  all  the 
good  observable  in  man,  and  pronounce  him  perfect, 
in  consequence  of  his  approved  moral  qualities,  as 
legitimately  as  you  stigmatize  him  with  the  character 
of  universal  depravity,  from  his  bad  ones  ?  Let  this 
statement  convince  you,  Sir,  that  the  singular  con- 
formation of  our  natures  cannot  be,  of  itself,  an  indica- 
tion of  either  virtue  or  vice,  that  it  is  equally  void  of 
merit  or  demerit,  claims  no  reward,  and  deserves  no 

Does  not  the  above  examination  fully  prove  that 
the  doctrine  of  hereditary  mental  depravity,  consider- 
ed either  physically  or  metaphysically,  is  an  absolute 
impossibility  ? 

We  shall  now  briefly  show,  that  it  is  equally  incon- 
sistent with  some  other  theological  tenets,  which  are 
also  deemed  sacred  by  its  supporters.     For  instance  ; 

If  hereditary  corruption  be  admitted,  it  will  totally 
destroy  all  the  subsequent  temptations  of  Satan.  If 
man  be  so  depraved  that  he  can  neither  think  a  good 
thought,  nor  perform  a  good  action ;  if  his  very  best 
deeds  are  only  splendid  sins,  there  is  no  place  left  for 
the  seductions  of  the  evil  one.  His  whole  business 
must  have  been  completed  by  the  success  of  his  first 
enterprise.  He  and  his  agents  would  be  idling  away 
their  time,  in  employing  arts  of  seduction  upon  those, 
who  are  already  prone  to  every  kind  of  iniquity  ;  or 
endeavouring  to  captivate  those,  who  are  already  in 
their  chains. 


The  doctrine  of  original  depravity  opposes  with  no 
less  force,  that  of  the  true  and  proper  incarnation  of 
the  Son  of  God.  If  it  be  true,  that  our  natures  are 
universally  corrupt,  when  the  Godhead  became  man 
in  the  person  of  Jesus  Christ,  he  must  have  taken  our 
corrupt  natures  upon  him  ;  that  is,  he  must  also  in- 
evitably have  partaken  of  this  original  hereditary  de- 
pravity. If  he  remained  untainted  with  original  sin, 
it  could  not  be  our  nature,  which  he  took  upon  him- 
self. Admitting  that  the  union  of  the  Divinity  with 
humanity  may  have  preserved  the  latter  from  actual 
transgression,  may  have  checked  and  subdued  every 
evil  propensity,  or  may  have  prevented  any  from 
rising,  yet  the  propensity  must  have  been  radically 
inherent  in  the  person  of  Jesus  Christ,  as  much  as  in 
ourselves.  The  divine  nature  must  inevitably  have 
taken  the  human,  as  it  actually  exists.  Christ  Jesus, 
therefore,  as  Man,  however  perfect  in  character  and 
in  conduct,  yet  being  a  child  of  Adam,  he  was, 
equally  with  those  he  came  to  save,  "  liable  to  the 
wrath  of  God,  and  the  pains  of  hell  for  ever !"  The 
pen  trembles  as  it  traces  these  consequences  ;  but 
they  inevitably  flow  from  your  extravagant  hypothesis  ! 
The  idea  might  be  enlarged  upon,  were  not  the  sub- 
ject too  revolting. 

The  position,  that  our  Saviour  was  born  out  of  the 
course  of  ordinary  generation,  does  not  solve  the  dif- 
ficulty, unless  it  can  be  proved  that  Adam's  depravity 
ran  in  the  male  line  alone,  notwithstanding  that  Eve 


was  first  in  the  transgression.  Mary,  the  mother  of 
Jesus,  being  born  of  parents  naturally  depraved,  must 
have  partaken  of  their  depravity,  and  this  must  have 
been  communicated  to  all  her  descendants,  whether 
according  to  the  course  of  ordinary  generation  or  not. 
It  is  maintained  by  our  opponents  universally,  that  our 
Saviour  was  of  the  seed  of  David,  alone  in  conse- 
quence of  his  having  been  born  of  Mary ;  but  as  you 
apply  the  declaration  of  David,  that  "  he  was  born  in 
sin,  and  in  iniquity  did  his  mother  conceive  him,"  to 
the  pollution  derived  from  Adam,  Mary  must  also 
have  partaken  of,  and  communicated  its  dreadful 
effects  to  her  son. 

Thus  it  appears,  without  a  possibility  of  evading 
the  force  of  the  argument,  that  if  the  doctrine  of 
hereditary  depravity  be  true,  and  if  the  Son  of  God 
be  also  the  Son  of  Man,  being  descended  from  Adam, 
in  the  female  line,  he  "  sinned  in  him,  and  fell  with 
him  in  his  first  transgression." 



The  Notion,  thai  Men  are  punished  for  Sin  inherited 
from  Mam,  is  extravagant,  irrational,  and  un- 
scr'jitural.  Shown  to  be  absurd,  and  the  Argu- 
ments in  its  Favour  examined  and  confuted.  It  is 
in  Opposition  to  the  Attributes  of  God. 

The  other  branch  of  your  doctrine  relates  to  the 
punishments,  to  which  the  hereditary  sinner  is  ex- 
posed. These,  as  represented  in  creeds  and  con- 
fessions, consist  in  miseries,  which  it  is  not  in  the 
power  of  imagination  to  exceed.  They  state  that 
"  the  offspring  of  Adam  have,  by  his  fall,  lost  com- 
munion with  God,  are  under  his  wrath  and  curse,  and 
so  made  liable  to  all  the  miseries  of  this  life,  to  death 
itself,  and  to  the  pains  of  hell  for  ever."  The  only 
mitigation  of  this  dreadful  sentence  is,  "  God  having 
out  of  his  mere  good  pleasure  from  all  eternity  elect- 
ed some  to  everlasting  life,  did  enter  into  a  covenant 
of  grace  to  deliver  them  out  of  the  estate  of  sin  and 
misery,  and  bring  them  into  an  estate  of  salvation 
through  a  Redeemer." 

The  objections  against  the  tenet  of  hereditary  sin 
were  simply,  that  it  is  unscriptural,  irrational,  and, 
physically  and  metaphysically  considered,  impossible  ; 
as  well  as  inconsistent  with  other  doctrines  held  to  be 
of  equal  importance.     The  charges  against  this  part 


of  the  system  are  of  a  more  serious  nature.  It  con- 
tains sentiments  which  impeach  the  divine  character, 
and  are  totally  the  reverse  of  the  ideas  it  is  our  duty 
to  cherish  of  the  Great  Universal  Parent. 

This  sentence  of  condemnation  consists  of  three 
parts,  being  made  "  liable  to  all  the  miseries  of  this 
life; — to  death  itself ; — and  to  the  pains  of  hell  for 

To  ascribe  all  the  miseries  of  this  life  to  the  fall  of 
Adam  is  merely  hypothetical.  It  far  exceeds  the 
Scripture  account,  nor  is  it  warranted  by  facts. 
Many  evils  manifestly  arise  from  the  original  consti- 
tution of  animated  natures.  Many  evils  are  suffered 
by  the  brute  creation,  whose  natures  could  not  have 
partaken  of  any  hereditary  change  from  the  fall  of 
Adam.  The  sensitive  powers  which  are  the  sources 
of  pleasure,  may,  in  some  circumstances,  become  the 
occasions  of  pain  ;  and  that  susceptibility  of  impress- 
ions from  surrounding  causes,  which  is  productive  of 
health  and  vigour,  may  occasionally  render  our  na- 
tures subject  to  diseases,  as  it  finally  induces  the  tor- 
por of  death.  Many  evils  are  superadded  to  the 
human  species  from  the  very  superiority  of  our  make  ; 
from  the  extreme  delicacy  of  our  feelings ;  from  the 
nature  and  extent  of  our  connexions  with  every  thing 
around  us  ;  from  the  infinite  variety  of  our  pursuits, 
and  the  number  of  our  enjoyments.  Animals  suffer 
little  more  than  bodily  pain,  for  the  instant.  The 
majority  of  them  have,  in  appearance,  very  imperfect 



recollection  of  the  past,  and  no  dread  of  the  future. 
Their  pursuits  commence  and  cease  with  animal 
gratifications.  The  objects  which  attract  our  atten- 
tion are  not  to  be  calculated,  and  every  object  may 
prove  a  source  of  disappointment.  Our  sorrows  arise 
from  the  recollection  of  past,  comforts ;  they  are  the 
funeral  eulogy  of  departed  joys.  Framed  and  situ- 
ated as  we  are,  various  discomfitures  must  present 
themselves,  from  the  very  constitution  of  things,  with- 
out their  being  evils  entailed  upon  us  by  the  crime  of 
our  progenitors.  It  will  appear  obvious  to  every  one, 
who  attentively  studies,  free  from  the  bias  of  system, 
the  nature  of  man,  his  powers,  his  connexions,  his  pas- 
sions and  affections,  that  we  are  as  originally  intend- 
ed ;  and  that  the  shock  of  a  single  transgression  could 
no  more  introduce  such  various  and  wonderful  com- 
binations, than  the  shock  of  an  earthquake  could 
newly  organize  the  whole  creation. 

It  is  the  immutable  law  of  animal  natures,  that  all 
which  are  born  into  this  world,  shall  suffer  the  disso- 
lution of  their  frames.  From  this  law  the  human 
species,  superiour  as  it  may  be  in  its  faculties,  is  not 
exempt.  Yet  the  human  species  are  expectants  of  a 
higher  state,  where  their  natures  shall  be  rendered 
capable  of  enjoying  permanent  existence,  and  more 
exalted  happiness,  than  its  present  frailties  will  permit. 
Were  they  destitute  of  this  expectation,  as  they  can- 
not claim  an  exclusive  right  to  immortality,  there 
could  be  no  injustice  in  their  being  involved  in  the 


common  ruin ;  with  it,  they  are  rendered  the  peculiar 
monuments  of  divine  benignity,  notwithstanding  this 
temporary  dishonour.  Mortality  being  our  destined 
lot,  where  is  the  injury  in  rendering  our  grand  pro- 
genitor the  parent  of  this  mortal  race  ;  or  the  impro- 
priety of  constituting  his  disobedience  to  the  divine 
command  the  medium  of  its  introduction ;  since  it 
inculcates  this  important  lesson,  that  disobedience 
disqualifies  for  the  enjoyment  of  permanent  happi- 
ness, and  therefore  would  render  permanent  exist- 
ence a  curse  ?  Sin  entered  into  the  world  through 
the  first  man,  as  he  was  the  first  sinner ;  but  as  there 
is  not  the  most  distant  reason  to  expect,  that  his  off- 
spring would  have  been  created  with  more  perfect 
dispositions,  and  stronger  powers  than  he  enjoyed, 
each,  like  him,  would  doubtless  have  yielded  to  his 
own  temptation  ;  and  the  divine  law  being  in  force, 
that  the  wages  of  sin  shall  be  death,  these  wages 
would  have  been  universally  the  awards  of  our  own 
personal  transgressions.  This  statement  must  not 
only  appear  consonant  with  every  attribute  of  Deity, 
but  to  every  one,  who  believes  in  primitive  and  ra- 
tional Christianity,  indicative  of  the  divine  benignity. 
He  will,  in  that  system,  discover,  that  indemnification 
is  promised  to  the  virtuous  part  of  our  race,  through 
the  instrumentality  of  one,  who  is  termed  the  second 
Adam,  and  whose  perfection  of  character  entitles  him 
to  the  high  honour  of  being  the  Saviour  of  mankind ; 
for  we  are  there  taught,  that  "  as  in  Adam  all  died, 
so  in  Christ  shall  all  be  made  alive." 



According  to  this  constitution  of  things,  should  it 
not  perfectly  quadrate  with  prior  ideas  or  expecta- 
tions, no  injustice  in  the  conduct  of  Deity  towards  his 
creatures  can  be  discovered,  or  suspected.  Ample 
provision  is  made  for  the  reparation  of  temporary  in- 
juries ;  and  though  we  may  not  completely  trace  the 
whole  plan  of  Providence,  we  can  trace  marks  of 
wisdom  and  beneficence  through  the  mists  of  obscu- 
rity which  still  remain.  But  to  believe  that  the  human 
race  is  rendered  liable  to  the  permanent  inextinguish- 
able wrath  of  God,  and  to  the  pains  of  hell  forever, 
on  account  of  the  transgression  of  their  forefather,  or 
in  consequence  of  any  taint,  that  they  have  been  ne- 
cessitated to  receive  from  him,  is  an  extravagance 
that  has  never  been  equalled  ! 

It  has  been  asserted,  and,  I  think,  indisputably 
proved,  that  the  doctrine  of  hereditary  depravity  has 
no  countenance  from  Scripture,  and  that  every  text 
urged  in  support  of  that  idea  demands  a  different  sig- 
nification. We  must  now  remark,  that  the  eternal 
punishment  of  hereditary  sin  is  likewise  a  phantom  of 
the  brain,  a  mere  dream,  and  no  revelation. 

It  must  be  remarked,  that  the  doctrine  of  our  being 
liable  to  eternal  misery  on  account  of  original  sin,  has 
not  so  much  as  dubious  phraseology,  or  the  sound  of 
a  single  text  to  support  it.  Most  of  the  errours  of 
systematic  divines,  whether  of  the  Romish  or  Calvin- 
istic  church,  proceed  from  their  not  possessing  any 
clue  to  direct  them  through  the  diversities  and  appa- 

•-530  LETTERS    ON 

rent  contrarieties  of  scripture  language.  The  par- 
ticular style  of  each  author,  the  nature  of  the  subject, 
the  state  and  circumstances  of  the  persons  addressed, 
&c.  have  been  the  occasion  of  varied  phraseology, 
and  this  has  been  made  to  countenance  every  religious 
hypothesis,  which  the  caprice  of  man  has  imagined, 
from  the  extravagances  of  Transubstantiation  on  the 
one  hand,  to  those  of  Antinomianism  on  the  other. 
In  fact,  almost  every  absurdity,  which  has  disgraced 
theology,  has  arisen  from  literal  interpretations  being 
given  to  passages  in  holy  writ,  where  the  first  prin- 
ciples of  reason,  and  the  essential  doctrines  of  Chris- 
tianity demand  a  figurative,  metaphorical  sense.  But 
on  the  present  question,  the  opposite  conduct  has  been 
pursued.  The  doctrine  appears  so  enchanting,  that 
language  has  been  strained  and  distorted,  in  order  to 
give  it  countenance.  The  only  sentence  denounced 
against  disobedience,  recorded  in  scripture  history, 
is,  "  in  the  day  that  thou  eatest  thereof,  thou  shalt 
surely  die  ;"  the  only  apprehension  expressed  by 
Eve,  when  tempted  by  the  serpent,  was,  "  if  she  ate 
of  the  tree,  or  touched  it,  she  should  surely  die." 
After  the  deed  was  committed,  the  Lord  God,  allot- 
ting the  punishment  to  each  offender,  passed  the  fol- 
lowing verdict  alone ;  he  said  unto  the  woman,  "  I 
will  greatly  multiply  thy  sorrow,  and  thy  conception  ; 
in  sorrow  thou  shalt  bring  forth  children,  and  thy  de- 
sire shall  be  to  thy  husband,  and  he  shall  rule  over 
thee."     And  unto  Adam  he  said,  "Because  thou  hast 



hearkened  to  the  voice  of  thy  wife,  and  hast  eaten  of 
the  tree  of  which  I  commanded  thee,  saying,  Thou 
shalt  not  eat  of  it ;  cursed  is  the  ground  for  thy  sake ; 
in  sorrow  shalt  thou  eat  of  it  all  the  days  of  thy  life  ; 
thorns  also  and  thistles  shall  it  bring  forth  to  thee  ; 
and  thou  shalt  eat  the  herb  of  the  field.  In  the  sweat 
of  thy  face  shalt  thou  eat  bread,  till  thou  return  unto 
the  ground  ;  for  out  of  it  ivast  thou  taken  ;  for  dust 
thou  art,  and  to  dust  shalt  thou  return." 

What  a  predilection  for  the  diffusion  of  misery 
must  that  mind  have  possessed ;  what  barbarous 
ideas,  worse  than  gothic,  which  dared  first  to  inter- 
pret threats  like  these  into  our  being  made  liable  to 
the  pains  of  hell  forever,  on  account  of  the  first  trans- 
gression !  What  reason  can  be  given  for  this  unusual 
deviation  from  the  literal  sense  of  terms  ?  By  what 
rule  of  interpretation  can  it  be  proved,  that  the  death 
denounced  in  this  sentence  should  signify  eternal  ex- 
istence, and  an  eternal  existence  in  misery  ?  The 
errour  and  absurdity  of  this  interpretation  are  happily 
demonstrated  by  an  authority  you  will  not  dispute. 
St  Paul,  referring  to  this  transgression  of  our  first 
parents,  says,  "  For  as  in  Adam  all  die,  even  so  in 
Christ  shall  all  be  made  alive."  The  contrast,  ac- 
cording to  just  rules  of  interpretation,  must  either 
relate  to  the  privation  of  life  by  one  event,  and  the 
restoration  of  life  by  the  other  ;  or  it  must  run  thus, 
"  for  as  in  Adam  all  were  made  eternally  miserable, 
so  in  Christ  shall  all  be  made  eternally  happy."  A 



contrast  which  contradicts  itself ;  for  those,  who  are 
preordained  to  be  eternally  wretched,  can  never  be 
eternally  happy. 

Neither  is  there  a  single  passage  in  any  other  part 
of  sacred  writ,  in  which  eternal  misery  is  said  to  be 
the  punishment  allotted  to  the  offspring  of  Adam,  on 
account  of  Adam's  transgression,  or  that  can  encou- 
rage the  most  eccentric  imagination  to  draw  the  in- 

We  shall,  therefore,  with  a  freedom  similar  to  that 
indulged  respecting  the  former  article,  examine 
whether  the  doctrine  of  the  eternal  misery  of  Adam's 
offspring,  on  account  of  his  transgression,  be  consistent 
with  those  attributes,  which  we  all  profess  to  ascribe 
to  the  Deity,  whom  we  unite  to  pronounce  infinitely 
powerful,  wise,  just,  and  good. 

But  this  freedom  shall  not  prevent  our  proceeding 
with  due  caution,  in  the  examination  of  a  question 
upon  which  our  characters  may  be  said,  in  some 
measure,  to  depend  ;  concerning  which,  if  the  doc- 
trine he  true,  the  boldness  of  the  attack  must  appear 
rash  and  reprehensible;  if  false,  every  one  will  deem 
the  doctrine  itself  to  be  impious.  Let  it  therefore 
be  previously  noticed,  that  every  argument  demands 
a  perfect  agreement  of  the  disputants  concerning  the 
signification  of  the  terms  used,  and  a  mutual  convic- 
tion of  their  aptitude  to  the  subject.  You  will  doubt- 
less acquiesce  in  the  definition,  that  Power  is  an 
energy  capable  of  producing  certain  effects;  and  the 


power  of  an  intelligent  being  is  the  ability  of  operat- 
ing some  designed  effect.  By  Wisdom  is  understood 
the  perception  and  application  of  means  adapted  to 
certain  ends.  It  implies  a  knowledge  of  the  relation 
in  which  things  stand  to  each  other,  and  the  direction 
of  this  knowledge  to  some  suitable  purpose.  By  Jus- 
tice is  meant  the  disposition  to  render  to  others  what 
is  their  due.  It  consists  in  not  inflicting  punish- 
ment beyond  their  deserts;  and  in  not  depriving  them 
of  the  good  to  which  they  have  an  undoubted  claim. 
By  Goodness,  the  disposition  which  consults  and  pro- 
motes the  welfare  of  others  to  the  utmost  extent  of 

It  is  also  to  be  presumed,  that  these  terms  have 
exactly  the  same  import  when  applied  to  the  charac- 
ter of  Deity,  as  in  their  application  to  the  characters 
of  men  ;  that  the  difference  is  in  degree  only,  not  in 
nature.  Without  this  concession  there  can  be  no  ar- 
gumentation concerning  the  attributes  of  Deity.  We 
shall  neither  understand  each  other  nor  ourselves  ; 
but  shall  rush  into  a  chaos  of  incertitude,  where 
nothing  can  be  maintained  or  denied,  proved  or  con- 

These  observations  will,  it  is  hoped,  strike  you, 
Sir,  with  all  the  force  of  self  evident  propositions  ;  but 
they  have  not  been  uniformly  admitted  by  advocates 
for  the  religious  sentiments  you  have  espoused. 
Some  have  imagined,  that  there  is  one  code  of  moral 
conduct  for  God,  and  another   for  man  ;  that  what- 

334  LETTERS   ON 

ever  the  Divine  Being  ordains  or  effects,  must  be 
right  and  good,  merely  because  he  is  the  agent ;  that 
his  sovereignty  renders  him  superiour  to  every  other 
rule,  but  that  of  his  own  good  pleasure.  Sentiments 
these,  which  subjugate  every  principle  to  the  right  of 
the  strongest,  and  would  render  Satan  himself  wise, 
just,  and  good,  could  he  but  usurp  the  throne  of  the 

Let  us  now  apply  these  principles  to  the  history  of 
original  sin,  and  inquire  how  they  will  accord.  The 
doctrine  stands  thus. 

It  was  the  primary  design  of  the  Almighty,  all  wise, 
infinitely  just,  and  good  God,  to  create  a  race  of 
beings  in  order  to  confer  upon  them  perfection  of 
character,  and  render  them  eternally  happy.  Unfor- 
tunately Satan,  an  evil  spirit  of  extraordinary  powers, 
and  astonishing  subtilty — but  yet  a  creature  of  God, 
and  as  such  not  above  the  control  of  his  Maker — 
Satan,  by  a  single  stratagem,  subverted  the  whole 
plan.  It  was  not  by  procuring  the  annihilation  of  this 
new  world,  with  its  inhabitants,  that  he  destroyed 
those  complacential  prospects  of  communing  bliss  en- 
joyed by  the  divine  mind,  but  he  involved  an  infinite 
majority  of  its  rational  inhabitants  in  endless  misery. 
The  infernal  scheme  was  accomplished  by  seducing 
our  first  parents  to  transgress  the  divine  command, 
while  their  whole  progeny  was  in  their  loins  ;  and  the 
seduction  introduced  at  once  such  a  total  depravity 
into  human  nature,  as  to  render  the  whole  progeny  of 


Adam  deserving  of  eternal  damnation,  even  before 
they  committed  any  actual  transgression.  This  sin 
of  Adam  incensed  the  Deity  against  the  whole  human 
race,  and  now  he  determines  to  make  the  beings,  who 
were  originally  designed  to  be  partakers  of  his  muni- 
ficence, the  dreadful  monuments  of  his  wrath.  The 
intended  objects  of  his  lovingkindness  are  now  the 
objects  of  his  vindictive  justice  for  crimes,  of  which 
they  were  totally  ignorant.  The  infinite  mercy  of 
Deity,  however,  induced  him  to  make  a  few  excep- 
tions, and  to  elect  some  from  this  immense  mass  of 
misery  to  everlasting  life,  out  of  his  mere  good  pleas- 
ure, without  any  superiour  degree  of  innocence  on 
their  parts,  or  the  possession  of  a  single  good  quality 
to  recommend  them  to  this  peculiar  mark  of  divine 

Surely,  to  every  person  free  from  prejudice,  will 
the  above  statement,  which  defies  the  charge  of  ex- 
aggeration, appear  as  a  confutation  of  the  doctrine. 
But  such  is  the  force  of  early  education,  or  of  predi- 
lection for  a  particular  system,  and  so  great  is  the 
awe  with  which  some  minds  are  struck,  when  dis- 
posed, or,  as  they  term  it,  tempted  to  doubt  of  tenets, 
they  have  been  taught  to  regard  as  sacred,  that  the 
greatest  absurdities  lie  concealed  from  the  eye  when 
they  put  on  a  religious  garb  ;  and  the  same  under- 
standings, which  despise  common  extravagances,  will 
bend  the  knee  to  those  contained  in  their  theological 

336  LETTERS    ON 

Is  it  not  self  evident,  that  if  God  foresaw  from  all 
eternity  the  seduction  of  Adam,  and  if  he  ordained 
from  all  eternity  to  save  the  elect  out  of  the  general 
wreck,  either,  that  it  was  not  the  primary  intention  of 
the  Supreme  Being  to  render  Adam  and  his  posterity 
happy,  or  that  he  failed  in  the  attempt  ?  We  cannot 
make  the  former  supposition,  without  denying  to  the 
Deity  the  only  motive  that  was  worthy  of  him.  Nay, 
we  must  suppose  that  he  decreed  to  form,  that  is,  to 
compel  into  existence,  beings  innumerable,  whose 
eternal  misery  he  distinctly  foresaw.  Can  the  imagi- 
nation devise  a  determination  of  cruelty  equal  to  this  ? 
Is  it  possible  for  such  a  doctrine  to  be  true,  and  the 
Deity  to  possess  the  character  ascribed  to  him  by  the 
Apostle  John,  when  he  says,  "  God  is  love ;"  a  being 
essentially  benignant  ?  Could  a  good  being  form 
creatures  for  such  an  unworthy  purpose,  when  the 
very  definition  of  benignity  is  a  disposition  to  diffuse 
all  possible  happiness  ? 

The  partial  exertion  of  sovereignty  in  the  predesti- 
nation of  a  few  to  eternal  life,  which  is  eagerly  urged 
as  a  proof  of  the  infinite  mercy  of  God,  is  in  fact  an 
evidence  to  the  contrary.  The  salvation  of  this  se- 
lected few  must  now  be  considered  as  a  full  indica- 
tion of  the  Divine  Power  to  save  those  destined  to 
perdition,  had  he  chosen  it ;  and  therefore  it  necessa- 
rily limits  the  divine  benignity.  Had  the  whole  hu- 
man race  been  involved  in  one  equal  ruin,  we  might 
have  lamented  that  Satan  should  thus  triumph  over 


the  benevolent  designs  of  our  Maker  ;  and  we  might, 
even  in  misery,  have  venerated  the  disposition,  which 
prompted  to  make  us  happy.  But  to  display  in  this 
small  specimen  his  power,  while  the  disposition  con- 
tinues averse  from  the  promotion  of  the  grand  primi- 
tive design,  is  an  astonishing  limitation  of  goodness  ; 
and  what  increases  the  astonishment  is,  its  being  pro- 
duced by  the  machinations  of  an  infernal  spirit. 

Most  advocates  for  the  distinguishing  tenets  of  Cal- 
vinism seem  to  be  much  more  deeply  impressed  with 
the  idea  of  Power,  than  with  any  other  of  the  divine 
attributes  ;  and  to  be  much  more  cautious  not  to 
commit  an  offence,  by  placing  limits  to  the  exertions 
of  this  power,  than  to  the  manifestations  of  wisdom 
and  goodness.  The  abettors  of  such  sentiments 
should  be  peculiarly  careful  not  to  support  a  doctrine, 
which  virtually  destroys  the  sovereignty  of  God,  and 
transfers  that  attribute  to  his  grand  antagonist.  This 
corruption  of  the  whole  human  race,  and  peopling  the 
dominions  of  sin  and  misery  with  such  multitudes  of 
subjects,  loudly  proclaims  the  triumph,  and  extends 
the  sovereignty  of  Satan  over  the  wide  region  of  the 
damned,  while  that  of  the  great  Creator  is  contracted 
to  the  small  province  of  the  elect.  He  is  now  de- 
prived of  every  power,  beyond  this  jurisdiction,  but 
that  of  executing  the  purposes  of  Satan,  by  inflicting 
eternal  punishments,  in  perfect  conformity  to  Satan's 
malignant  desires  ! 

338  LETTERS    ON 

Can  we  venerate  the  infinite  Wisdom  of  God,  and 
believe  that  his  plans  were  disconcerted  by  the  wiles 
of  an  apostate  spirit  ?  Can  we  imagine  that  he  should 
have  miscalculated  the  powers  of  his  new  favourite 
man,  on  the  one  hand,  and  the  artifices  of  the  Devil 
on  the  other  ;  and  thus  have  inadvertently  exposed 
the  representative  of  the  human  race  to  a  combat,  to 
which  he  was  created  so  unequal  ?  According  to  this 
scheme,  the  very  Prescience  of  God  is  an  impeach- 
ment of  his  wisdom,  siuce  he  must  thus  have  concert- 
ed a  plan  which  he  knew  would  prove  abortive. 

If  we  attend  to  the  plan  itself,  it  will,  in  every  re- 
spect, appear  unworthy  of  Deity.  In  other  cases, 
where  we  trace  the  divine  footsteps,  we  discover 
marks  of  wisdom  ;  we  judge  them  to  be  of  God  from 
the  stamp  of  excellency  impressed  upon  them  ;  but 
who  can  possibly  discern  the  wisdom  of  a  constitu- 
tion, which  not  only  failed  in  the  primitive  design,  but 
inevitably  exposed  the  vast  majority  of  mankind  to 
endless  wo  ?  What  marks  of  design  worthy  of  God 
do  we  trace,  in  resting  the  character  and  felicity  of 
numberless  beings  on  the  single  act  of  a  frail  indi- 
vidual ;  in  rendering  them  nominally  good  or  bad, 
really  happy  or  wretched,  by  imputation  and  proxy  ? 
If  it  be  an  essential  character  of  wisdom  to  discern 
and  adapt  means  to  ends,  that  some  valuable  purpose 
may  be  obtained,  it  surely  cannot  be  found  in  a  doc- 
trine, that  represents  the  means  to  be  inadequate,  and 


the  issue  the  reverse  of  what  was  intended,  that  is, 
the  reverse  of  every  thing  wise  and  good. 

If  it  be  one  property  of  Justice  not  to  inflict  punish- 
ment beyond  desert,  can  the  utmost  stretch  of  imagi- 
nation conceive  of  an  act  of  injustice  equal  to  the 
conduct  imputed  to  the  Supreme,  which  has  exposed 
"  numbers,  beyond  enumeration,"  to  eternal  misery 
for  a  single  act  of  their  primogenitor,  while  they  were 
sleeping  in  unconsciousness  .?  Can  any  act  be  more 
unjust,  than  the  judicial  punishment  of  the  innocent 
for  imputed  crimes,  than  to  rank  those  who  have 
never  transgressed,  in  the  class  of  the  vilest  offenders, 
for  a  conduct  over  which  they  could  have  no  influ- 
ence ;  and  to  exclude  them  from  the  pardon  you  al- 
low to  have  been  granted  to  the  real  offender  ?  Had 
iEsop  lived  in  the  christian  era,  and  been  informed, 
that  such  a  tenet  was  maintained  by  some  professors 
of  Christianity,  we  should  have  suspected  that  the 
fable  of  the  wolf  and  the  lamb,  which  every  ingenuous 
schoolboy  reads  with  indignation,  had  been  invented 
to  satirize  and  confute  so  extravagant  an  idea. 

You  say,  that  this  multitude,  doomed  to  eternal 
perdition,  fall  a  sacrifice  to  the  vindictive  justice  of 
God,  whose  laws  have  been  violated  by  the  grand 
representative  of  the  human  race.  But  can  Deity  be 
unjust  and  cruel  to  others,  that  he  mny  be  just  to  him- 
self? The  satisfaction  of  the  attribute  justice,  is,  in 
reality,  a  simple  abstract  idea.  Justice  suffers  no 
misery,  if  it  be  not  satisfied ;  and  it  cannot  demand 

340  LETTERS    ON 

the  misery  of  millions,  who  never  intentionally  offend- 
ed it.  Besides,  since  the  claims  of  vindictive  justice 
have  been  waived  in  the  salvation  of  the  elect,  what 
can  have  rendered  them  so  inexorable  respecting  the 
reprobated?  or,  why  should  its  claims  be  paramount 
to  those  of  every  other  attribute  ?  Are  they  more 
sacred  than  those  of  Benignity  and  Compassion  ? 
Must  this  so  peremptorily  demand  millions  of  victims, 
and  are  the  others  to  be  easily  satisfied  with  a  few 
scattered  monuments  of  mercy  ? 

But  the  principal  defence  of  your  fundamental  doc- 
trine is  founded  upon  a  supposed  covenant,  which  it 
is  said  God  entered  into  with  Adam  ;  according  to 
which  it  was  stipulated,  that  he  and  his  posterity 
should  enjoy  eternal  life,  in  consequence  of  his  obe- 
dience. It  is  therefore  pleaded,  that  as  Adam  sub- 
mitted to  the  terms,  the  Deity  is  fully  justified  in 
executing  the  sentence  denounced  against  disobedi- 

The  first  answer  to  this  assertion  is,  that  it  is  a  mere 
assertion,  and  no  revelation.  Among  the  numerous 
covenants  really  mentioned  in  the  Old  or  New 
Testament,  it  is  nowhere  to  be  found.  Those  upon 
record  are  obviously  just,  most  of  them  replete  with 
benignity  and  love.  They  are  all  worthy  of  a  God, 
worthy  of  being  adored.  Not  one  of  them  has  the 
most  distant  reference  to  the  fall  of  Adam ;  and  we 
shall  search  in  vain  for  a  stipulation  so  formed,  that  a 
breach  of  its  conditions  on  the  part  of  man  should 
involve  myriads  of  innocent  beings  in  endless  misery. 


The  idea  of  a  covenant  is  solely  entertained  as  a 
subterfuge,  under  which  distressed  argument  may 
shelter  itself;  but  it  is  totally  inadequate  to  the  pur- 
pose. A  moment's  reflection  will  convince  you,  that 
it  was  unworthy  of  the  Deity,  and  ill  adapted  to  the 
state  of  man.  If  you  suppose,  that  supreme  Intelli- 
gence did  not  foresee  the  issue  of  this  compact,  which 
is  the  most  favourable  supposition  wTe  can  make,  you 
must  admit,  that  it  was  a  desperate  venture  to  place 
the  eternal  interests  of  the  whole  human  race  upon 
such  a  hazard.  We  are  struck  with  honour  when 
we  read,  that  the  ancient  Germans  used  frequently  to 
stake  the  liberty  of  their  wives  and  children  upon  the 
throw  of  a  die,  and  yet  we  must  imagine  that  the  Su- 
preme Parent  staked  the  felicity  of  his  intellectual 
offspring  upon  an  event,  that  was  equally  precarious. 
If  you  acknowledge  that  he  foreknew  the  event,  the 
imputation  is  infinitely  stronger.  In  that  case,  this 
extolled  covenant,  which  is  to  settle  every  difficulty, 
by  fully  vindicating  the  divine  justice,  bears  all  the 
marks  of  an  illicit  contract.  Adam,  confiding  in  the 
powers  newly  received  from  his  Maker,  and  deeming 
them  fully  adequate  to  every  trial  to  which  the  benig- 
nant Author  of  his  existence  would  expose  him,  must 
have  accepted  the  terms  in  the  simplicity  and  in- 
genuousness of  his  heart.  But  his  Creator  foreknew 
the  dreadful  consequences ;  and  what  shall  we  term 
this,  if  it  be  not  deceitfully  taking  in  the  unwary  ?  If 
it  be  not  holding  out  a  ticket  to  the  grasp,  which, 

342  LETTERS    ON 

upon  the  face  of  it,  promised  riches  immense,  while 
the  proposer  knew  it  would  be  drawn  a  dreadful 
blank  ?  Or  what  shall  we  think  of  that  commisera- 
tion, which  should  propose  a  compact,  Omniscience 
foresaw  would  be  so  fatal  in  its  result ;  which  should 
expose  the  dearest  interests  of  the  universe  to  the 
vibrations  of  Adam's  free  will,'  with  a  previous  know- 
ledge that  it  would  finally  point  at  destruction  ? 

You  may,  perhaps,  object  that  such  language  is 
bold  even  to  rashness  ;  you  will  plead,  that  notwith- 
standing we  agree  in  our  ideas  of  justice  and  good- 
ness in  the  abstract,  we  may  frequently  err  in  our 
application  of  these  terms  to  particular  instances;  and 
because  we  are  prone  to  make  egregious  mistakes  in 
dispositions  and  conduct,  often  deeming  that  to  be  just 
and  good,  or  to  be  unjust  or  cruel,  which  in  fact  is  the 
very  reverse.  This  objection  is  admitted  to  have 
some  force,  but  when  duly  considered  it  will  be  dis- 
covered to  add  strength  to  our  argument,  and  justify 
every  expression  that  has  been  uttered. 

You  cannot  maintain,  that  because  we  sometimes 
err  in  our  ideas  of  moral  conduct,  we  must  always 
err  ;  for  this  mode  of  reasoning,  would  render  every 
thing  uncertain,  and  bring  us  back  to  a  state  of  con- 
fusion and  ignorance.  Were  this  to  be  established  as 
an  universal  axiom  without  any  exception,  it  would 
destroy  itself.  The  same  evidence,  which,  in  certain 
instances,  detects  that  we  had  misapplied  those  terms, 
manifests  that  we  do  not  misapply  them  always ;  otli- 


ervvise  we  should  never  be  able  to  correct  our  opinion 
effectually,  nor  would  the  mind  find  itself  authorized 
to  settle  in  the  full  conviction  of  a  truth.  Let  us  then 
attend  to  the  manner  in  which  our  former  errours 
have  been  corrected,  and  we  shall  discover  a  rule  of 
conduct  sufficient  to  direct  us  in  every  similar  in- 
stance. In  all  cases,  we  correct  our  judgment,  by 
rendering  ourselves  more  perfect  masters  of  the  sub- 
ject under  consideration  ;  that  is,  by  obtaining  minute 
and  accurate  information  concerning  every  circum- 
stance that  can  elucidate  it ;  and  by  giving  to  each 
circumstance,  without  reserve,  its  genuine  character 
and  due  degree  of  importance.  Every  person  of 
sound  intellect  is  able  to  judge  of  right  and  wrong 
in  conduct,  when  each  material  article,  relative  to 
the  act,  is  fairly  placed  before  him,  provided  his 
mind  be  totally  free  from  the  bias  of  prejudice.  We 
thus,  in  some  cases,  acquire  a  power  of  discrimina- 
tion which  we  deem  infallible.  It  is  thus  we  are  able 
to  exculpate  or  convict  in  courts  of  judicature  ;  and 
venture  to  decide  concerning  guilt  and  innocence, 
where  the  life  and  character  of  the  arraigned,  that  is, 
all  that  is  valuable  to  him,  is  at  stake;  and  where  the 
character  and  mental  peace  of  the  juror  himself,  de- 
pend upon  the  truth  of  his  verdict.  It  is  by  attending 
to  every  leading  circumstance  of  a  fact,  we  know  that 
to  take  what  has  been  the  property  of  another,  is  not 
always  theft ;  to  destroy  life  is  not  always  to  commit 
murder ;  that  every  act  of  severity  is  not  always  an 

344  LETTERS    ON 

injustice  ;  and  every  indulgence  granted  may  not  al- 
ways be  a  real  kindness. 

Thus  the  conduct  of  Deity  towards  his  rational 
creatures  may,  in  many  instances,  appear  extremely 
severe,  perhaps  inconsistent  with  justice.  But  as  we 
are  not  fully  acquainted  with  the  deserts  of  the  indi- 
vidual, on  the  one  hand,  nor  with  the  whole  plan  of 
Providence  concerning  him  on  the  other,  we  should 
be  rash  and  precipitate  in  the  extreme,  did  we  form 
our  judgment  according  to  these  appearances.  Did 
we  know  the  whole,  the  equity  and  benignity  of  a 
being,  essentially  just  and  good,  must  necessarily  be 
rendered  conspicuous ;  and  the  coincidence  between 
character  and  conduct  would  be  fully  demonstrated. 
As  long  as  the  possibility  of  retribution  remains,  the 
severest  conduct  may  finally  indicate  itself  to  be  the 
truest  benignity  directed  by  wisdom ;  and  the  full  in- 
demnification, which  Omnipotence  is  able  to  bestow, 
may  render  those  trials  a  subject  of  joy  and  gratitude, 
which,  in  the  painful  process,  excited  the  contrary 
emotions.  When,  therefore,  we  have  arrived  at  the 
ultimatum  concerning  a  plan,  or  an  action  ;  when  we 
are  able  to  estimate  the  degree  of  influence  belonging 
to  every  circumstance  surrounding  it,  we  are  then 
able  to  decide  concerning  its  nature  and  character. 
We  may  then  pronounce  a  verdict  without  hesita- 
tion ;  no  further  appeal  can  be  made,  nor  can  any 
circumstances  present  themselves  to  produce  a  change 
of  opinion. 


Now  this  is  precisely  the  case  with  the  subject  in 
debate.  Your  doctrine  professes  to  give  a  history  of 
the  whole  plan  of  Providence  respecting  the  human 
race  ;  and  to  the  conduct  of  Providence  towards  this 
race  are  our  ideas  necessarily  confined.  Every  es- 
sential part  is  stated ;  the  primitive  designs  of  creation  ; 
the  seduction  of  Satan  ;  the  guilt  of  Adam  ;  the  in- 
culpation of  his  unconscious  progeny;  the  punishment 
denounced  ;  the  motives  for  its  extreme  severity — to 
avenge  vindictive  justice  ;  the  exceptions  which  anni- 
hilate its  necessity — the  salvation  of  a  chosen  few  in 
the  same  predicament,  without  the  shadow  of  a  mo- 
tive. A  clearer  case  has  never  been  stated  before  a 
court  of  judicature  ;  and  we  may  add,  never  could 
the  decision  of  not  guilty  be  pronounced  with  a 
firmer  tone,  than  we  are  able  to  pronounce  the  inno- 
cence of  Adam's  progeny.  Never  could  a  court  be 
more  assured  that  particular  conduct  is  unjust,  cruel, 
unworthy  of  its  agent,  than  we  may  rest  assured,  that 
a.  just  and  merciful  Being  cannot  sentence  the  uncon- 
scious children  of  Adam  to  eternal  misery,  on  account 
of  this  single  act  of  disobedience. 

From  inattention  to  the  essential  difference,  which 
particular  circumstances  necessarily  make  in  the  na- 
ture and  character  of  any  action,  it  proceeds,  that  you, 
and  the  supporters  of  your  system,  are  so  prone  to 
adduce  as  powerful  arguments,  every  instance  of  di- 
vine conduct,  which  bears  but  the  slightest  analogy  to 
the  subject  in  question;  although  this  mode  of  reason- 

346  LETTERS    ON 

ing  leads  to  consequences,  which  yourselves  must 
reject.  It  was  this  which  induced  you  to  conclude, 
that  because  the  Supreme  Being  has  admitted  some 
evil  into  the  system  of  things,  he  is  free  to  multiply 
and  diffuse  it  in  the  most  arbitrary  manner,  and  to 
the  greatest  extent;  which,  if  true,  would,  as  has  been 
already  hinted,  approximate  the  most  opposite  charac- 
ters, and  render  the  state  of  mankind  as  lamentable 
under  the  government  of  the  best  of  beings,  as  under 
the  tyranny  of  the  worst. 

The  declaration  made  to  the  Jewish  people  by  the 
Almighty,  that  "  he  visiteth  the  iniquity  of  the  father 
upon  the  children  to  the  third  and  fourth  generation 
of  them  that  hate  him,"  furnishes  us  with  another 
example  of  the  same  inconclusive  mode  of  reasoning. 
An  argument  has  been  drawn  from  it,  that  as  it  is 
consistent  with  the  justice  of  God  to  visit  the  iniquity 
of  parents  upon  their  offspring  in  one  instance,  why 
not  in  all  ?  The  answer  upon  the  principles  stated 
above  is  obvious.  When  circumstances,  which  have 
an  apparent  similarity,  indicate  themselves,  upon  close 
examination,  to  be  essentially  different,  no  argument 
from  so  slight  and  imperfect  an  analogy  can  be  ad- 
mitted. This  threat  may  prove  itself  to  be  within 
the  sphere  not  only  of  justice,  but  of  benignity.  The 
good  enjoyed  may  yet  surpass  the  evils  suffered;  and 
undoubtedly  will  surpass  the  deserts  of  the  offending 
sufferer.  The  threat  was  intended  to  prevent  the 
offence ;  while  it  shuts  no  door  to  the  repentance. 


which  severity  is  calculated  and  designed  to  promote ; 
and  which  will  be  succeeded  by  the  return  of  the  di- 
vine favour  and  protection.  What  relation  has  such 
an  admonition  with  that  final  state  of  things,  where 
punishment  infinitely  exceeds  personal  demerit,  re- 
pentance can  be  of  no  avail,  and  "  hope  never  comes 
that  comes  to  all  ?"  We  must  also  observe,  that,  ac- 
cording to  the  manifest  constitution  of  human  affairs, 
a  regular  series  of  cause  and  effect  is  established  in 
every  station  and  relation  in  life ;  and  the  nature  and 
complexion  of  the  one  will  be  according  to  the  ten- 
dency of  the  other.  Parents  are  not  only  the  source 
of  the  existence,  but  of  the  lot  of  their  offspring. 
Both  the  prosperity  and  distress  of  children,  in  cases 
innumerable,  depend  upon  the  success  or  adversity, 
the  prudence  or  imprudence,  the  virtuous  or  vicious 
conduct  of  the  authors  of  their  being.  It  was  there- 
fore a  benignant  admonition,  which  warned  the  Israel- 
ites, that  the  effects  of  a  rebellious  conduct  would 
extend  their  pernicious  influence  beyond  the  existent 
generation  ;  that  by  transmitting  an  idolatrous  spirit 
to  their  posterity,  they  necessarily  transmit  the  punish- 
ments annexed  to  idolatry.  In  the  same  declaration 
they  are  informed,  that  mercy  would  be  shown  to 
thousands  of  those  who  loved  him  and  kept  his  com- 
mandments. In  this  very  passage,  therefore,  the 
divine  benignity  shines  conspicuous,  both  in  the  threat 
and  in  the  promise  ;  and  the  disposition  to  show  mer- 
cy is  represented  as  greatly  exceeding  that  to  chastise ; 

348  LETTERS    ON 

perfectly  harmonizing  with  the  many  other  assurances, 
that  he  is  slow  to  anger,  and  plenteous  in  mercy; 
that  he  will  not  always  chide,  nor  retain  his  anger  for- 
ever. Assurances  as  opposite  to  the  system  we  are 
combating,  as  the  meridian  day  to  the  gloom  of  mid- 
night ;  as  the  joys  of  heaven  to  the  pangs  of  hell.  If 
that  system  be  true,  the  punishment  is  inflicted  upon 
souls,  that  could  not  be  admonished  by  the  threat ; 
the  visitation  is  an  eternity  of  pure,  unalloyed  misery ; 
the  Deity  is  quick  to  revenge,  infinitely  slow  to  par- 
don ;  he  doth  chide  where  there  is  no  fault ;  and  his 
anger  endureth  forever  without  any  just  provocation. 

If  arguments  from  slight  analogies  formed  upon 
admitted  facts  thus  prove  inconclusive,  those  deduced 
from  vague  conjecture  ought  to  prove  more  unsatis- 
factory. In  your  attempt  to  convince  the  skeptic  of 
the  truth  of  the  christian  religion,  which,  according 
to  your  creed,  necessarily  comprehends  the  belief  of 
this  doctrine  ;  you  demand  of  him,  whether  "  all  this 
weight  of  evidence  is  to  be  overbalanced  by  this  one 
difficulty  on  a  subject  so  confessedly  high  and  myste- 
rious ;  considering,  too,  that  he  must  allow  we  see 
but  a  part — oh,  how  small  a  part  of  the  universal 
creation  of  God,  and  that  our  faculties  are  incompe- 
tent to  judge  of  the  scheme  of  his  infinite  wisdom." 
Not  to  observe  that  the  whole  mystery  on  the  subject 
is,  that  any  man  of  sense  can  admit  such  a  doctrine 
without  evidence,  and  that  every  difficulty  is  at  once 
removed   by  rejecting  it ;    not  to  repeat  what  has 


already  been  advanced  to  prove  the  futility  of  your 
reasoning,  concerning  the  incompetency  of  the  human 
faculties  to  judge  of  religious  tenets  ;  it  is  very  ap- 
parent from  the  above  passage,  that  you  feel  yourself 
necessitated  to  plunge  into  the  immensity  of  creation 
in  search  of  an  argument  to  justify  your  hypothesis. 
We  shall  follow  you  for  a  moment,  attempt  to  give 
shape  and  consistency^  to  vague  ideas,  couched  under 
general  expressions,  and  show  that  your  system  can 
derive  no  consolation  or  support  from  this  quarter. 
Your  observation  can  only  be  relevant  to  the  subject 
by  its  suggesting,  that  the  plan  of  Providence  towards 
our  first  parents  and  their  offspring  may  be  intimately 
connected  with,  and  exert  an  important  influence 
over,  some  other  part  of  the  universal  system.  But 
we  can  conceive  of  no  other  influence  than  the  force 
of  example  ;  and  the  only  object  of  this  example 
must  be  to  deter  other  probationary  beings  from  the 
imitation  of  a  similar  conduct.  If  this,  Sir,  be  your 
meaning,  the  objections  against  it  are  as  formidable 
as  any  that  have  been  urged  against  the  doctrine 
which  gave  it  existence.  How  large  do  you  imagine 
the  number  of  these  parental  representatives  of  future 
offsprings,  who  require  such  an  expense  of  happiness 
in  order  to  keep  them  in  awe  ?  What  ideas  shall  we 
form  of  their  primitive  character,  if  methods  like  ihese 
are  requisite  to  retain  them  in  their  allegiance  ?  Must 
they  not  be  too  depraved  to  merit  such  sacrifices  ? 
Or  dare  we  for  a  moment  entertain  the  horrid  idea, 


that  the  divine  wisdom  and  goodness  could  discover 
no  better  methods  in  order  to  teach  lessons  of  obe- 
dience to  surrounding  worlds  ?  Can  cruelty  and  in- 
justice become  the  basis  of  the  moral  government  of 
the  most  perfect  of  beings  ?  Will  he  create  a  mass  of 
misery  among  one  race  of  his  creatures,  that  another 
may  escape  it  ?  It  is  most  true,  Sir,  that  we  cannot 
fathom  the  depths  of  infinite  wisdom.  "  The  ways 
of  the  most  perfect  Being  are  not  as  our  ways,  nor 
his  thoughts  as  our  thoughts."  They  are  infinitely 
better,  not  infinitely  worse.  They  are  "  high  as  the 
heavens,  above  our  thoughts  and  our  ways,"  not 
deeper  than  the  abyss  below  them.  If  this  condem- 
nation of  the  human  race  for  the  sin  of  Adam  be  itself 
cruel  and  unjust,  as  you  acknowledge  yourself  some- 
times tempted  to  suspect,  the  utmost  extent  of  its 
uses  cannot  alter  its  nature.  We  are  forbidden  to  do 
evil  that  good  may  come  ;  and  infinite  perfection  will 
never  set  us  the  example.  Tyranny  itself,  in  its  most 
wanton  exertions,  has  never  devised  or  executed  a 
plan  so  extravagant ;  has  never  attempted  to  retain 
one  class  of  subjects  in  obedience,  by  gibbeting  the 
innocent  offspring  of  another. 

These  remarks  may  possibly  convince  you,  that 
your  embryo  argument  aguin  proceeds  from  a  very 
defective  analogy.  You  now  s"ppose  that,  because 
exemplary  punishment  may  be  useful  among  one  class 
of  frail  and  imperfect  creatures,  it  becomes  abso- 
lutely requisite  to  prevent  the  frailties  and  imperfec- 


tions  of  another ;  because  the  guilty  are  made  to 
suffer  for  the  good  of  the  community  they  have  in- 
jured, the  innocent  offspring  of  the  guilty  may  be  ex- 
posed to  sufferings  unparalleled,  for  the  good  of  a 
state  with  which  they  have  no  other  connexion  ;  be- 
cause pains  and  imprisonments  form  too  large  a  por- 
tion of  our  defective  governments,  they  are  absolutely 
necessary,  under  the  perfect  administration  of  a  most 
perfect  Being,  to  retain  one  part  of  the  universal  sys- 
tem in  obedience  ;  and  that  he  has  created  a  race  or 
races  of  beings,  whose  powers  and  dispositions  have 
been  exactly  adapted  to  such  disingenuous  motives. 

Thus,  my  good  Sir,  do  we  find,  upon  taking,  not  a 
partial  and  superficial,  but  a  full  and  comprehensive 
survey  of  this  doctrine,  as  stated  by  its  warmest  advo- 
cates, that  it  is  surrounded  by  the  most  formidable 
objections ;  objections  which  cannot  be  confuted  nor 
evaded.  Your  system,  professing  to  ley  the  whole 
plan  of  Providence  before  us,  enables  us  to  judge  of 
its  nature  and  complexion  ;  and  we  may  safely  pro- 
nounce that  it  is  unworthy  of  the  perfections  of  Deity. 
The  divine  attributes  are  so  implicated  in  this  transac- 
tion, that  one  cannot  possibly  escape  without  the  im- 
peachment of  some  other.  There  must  have  been  a 
deficiency  in  foresight,  in  wisdom,  in  power,  in  jus- 
tice, or  in  goodness,  or  the  event,  as  represented  in 
your  system,  could  not  have  happened.  If  Satan  de- 
ceived the  Ali-wise,  then  was  he  still  wiser  ;  if  he  suc- 
ceeded  in  opposition  to  the  exertions  of  the  Almighty 

352  LETTERS    ON 

to  prevent  the  evil,  then  was  he  more  powerful ;  if 
the  event  took  place  with  his  concurrence  or  conniv- 
ance, then  was  it  a  conspiracy  with  the  evil  one,  con- 
trary to  all  the  principles  of  justice,  goodness,  and 
commiseration  ;  and  he,  whose  nature  and  character 
it  is  to  hate  sin  and  misery,  formed  a  league  with 
Satan  to  render  them  perpetual !  Surely,  Sir,  these 
inductions,  flowing  so  necessarily  from  your  system, 
ought  to  make  you  tremble.  Look  at  it  again,  and 
say,  can  a  doctrine,  which  contains  such  an  accumu- 
lation of  absurdities  and  impieties,  be  deemed  honour- 
able to  our  Creator  ?  Ought  it  to  be  considered  as 
the  basis  of  true  Christianity  ? 

If  you  still  remain  unconvinced  of  your  errour,  re- 
specting the  doctrine  itself,  you  will,  it  is  hoped,  con- 
clude from  the  above  train  of  reasoning,  that  when 
the  nominal  christian  renounces  a  doctrine  you  think 
so  essential,  he  may  also  be  actuated  by  a  concern 
for  the  honour  of  God  ;  that  it  is  not  a  desire  to  extol 
human  nature  in  a  manner  flattering  to  human  pride, 
which  prompts  him  to  deny  this  original  depravity, 
with  its  consequent  punishment ;  nor  a  wish  to  show 
himself  wise  above  what  is  written,  which  induces 
him  to  reject  the  supposed  covenant  as  apocryphal, 
and  contemplate  its  conditions  with  horrour.  He 
argues  not  for  himself,  but  the  character  of  his  God, 
and  your  God,  is  intimately  concerned  in  the  debate  ; 
that  Being  whom  we  are  commanded  both  to  love 
and  to  imitate.     Since  it  is  enjoined  upon  us,  that  we 


"  be  perfect  as  our  heavenly  Father  is  perfect,"  how 
important  is  it  that  we  entertain  the  most  worthy  ideas 
of  the  divine  character  and  conduct,  in  order  that 
obedience  to  his  commands  may  be  in  unison  with  the 
imitation  of  his  example.  But  if  your  system  be  true, 
the  imitation  of  the  divine  model  would  naturally 
lead  us  to  be  incautious,  or  unjust,  or  cruel ;  impla- 
cable in  our  resentments,  and  partial  in  our  forgive- 
ness. We  also  should  feel  ourselves  entitled  to  re- 
venge every  injury,  under  the  pretext  of  satisfying 
vindictive  justice  ;  for  if  justice  in  the  abstract  neces- 
sarily requires  the  punishment  of  the  offender,  neither 
can  we  pardon  without  committing  an  offence  against 
it,  by  being  unjust  to  ourselves. 

We  are  commanded  to  "  love  the  Lord  our  God 
with  all  our  hearts,  with  all  our  souls,  with  all  our 
might;"  but  this  devout  and  ardent  affection  can  only 
be  founded  upon  a  conviction  of  his  superlative  good- 
ness. Every  sentiment,  that  has  a  tendency  to  check 
this  conviction,  must  inevitably  damp  the  ardour  of 
our  affection.  Every  sentiment,  that  largely  displays 
the  divine  benignity,  is  calculated  to  fan  the  devout 
flame.  In  the  doctrine  of  original  sin  and  its  ordain- 
ed consequences,  most  certain  it  is,  that  the  universal 
benevolence  of  the  Deity  is  not  rendered  conspicuous ; 
much  less  is  it  represented  in  a  manner  adapted  to 
warm  the  generous  heart.  The  only  love  that  can 
be  excited,  consistent  with  its  principles,  is  the  per- 
sonal gratitude  of  the  elect,  for  what  they  justly  term 
astonishing  and  unmerited  favour.     Out  of  this  small 


circle  the  Universal  Parent  must  become  an  object  of 
terrour.  The  duty  must  therefore  be  confined  to 
them ;  for  the  non-elect,  experiencing  no  essential 
benignity,  cannot  possibly  perform  it.  They  must  be 
as  destitute  of  motives,  as  you  deem  them  destitute 
of  natural  powers.  There  is  a  selfishness  also  in  the 
affection  of  the  elect,  which  diminishes  the  lustre  of 
so  excellent  a  disposition ;  for  a  due  regard  to  that 
other  command,  "  Thou  shalt  love  thy  neighbour  as 
thyself,"  would  disqualify  a  benevolent  mind  for  the 
enjoyment  of  this  exclusive  felicity.  It  would  lament 
the  misery  of  the  damned  too  deeply  to  feel  satisfac- 
tion at  the  distinguished  favour  conferred  upon  itself; 
unless,  indeed,  you  admit  another  extravagance,  and 
suppose  that  it  will  be  the  office  of  the  same  spirit, 
which  softens  the  christian's  heart  in  this  world,  to 
harden  it  in  a  more  exalted  state. 

How  different  this  contracted,  monopolizing  temper, 
and  the  scheme  which  inspires  it,  from  that  inspired 
by  a  conviction  of  the  universal  benignity  of  Deity, 
entitling  us  to  call  upon  the  whole  earth  "  to  rejoice 
that  the  Lord  God  omnipotent  reigneth  ;"  from  being 
fully  assured  that  "his  throne  is  established  in  right- 
eousness, and  that  his  mercy  endureth  forever."  Sen- 
timents like  these  must  impress  the  wicked  in  the  hour 
of  reflection  ;  and  they  communicate  joy  unalloyed 
to  the  benevolent  christian,  as  often  as  his  mind  yields 
itself  up  to  their  full  impression. 




The  Scheme  of  Original  Depravity  not  necessary  to 
account  for  Moral  Imperfection  in  Man.  Argu- 
ments against  the  Doctrine  drawn  from  its  perni- 
cious Consequences. 

A  person  unacquainted  with  artificial  theology,  and 
ignorant  of  the  extravagances  of  which  it  is  capable, 
would  be  much  surprised  when  informed,  that  a 
scheme  like  the  one  we  have  been  contemplating, 
was  invented  expressly  to  vindicate  the  character  of 
Deity.  He  would  naturally  inquire,  what  imputation 
can  be  supposed  worse  than  the  one  this  vindication 
necessarily  brings  with  it  ?  He  will  urge  that  the 
apology  is  totally  on  the  side  of  Man,  and  not  of  his 
Maker  ;  since  the  depravity,  which  is  hereditary  and 
inevitable,  renders  what  is  termed  vice  as  instinctive, 
and  consequently  as  innocent  as  the  brutal  propensi- 
ties of  the  most  brutal  animals ;  and  he  will  ask,  can 
any  thing  stronger  be  suggested  against  the  divine 
perfections,  than  to  treat  these  instinctive  propensities 
as  crimes  deserving  eternal  punishment?  When  you 
unfold  your  principles  before  him,  by  asserting  that 
every  thing,  which  comes  immediately  out  of  the  hands 
of  Deity,  must  be  perfect;  that  it  is  inconsistent  with 
the  divine  attributes  to  form  creatures  in  a  depraved 
state,  and  therefore  they  must  have  been  rendered 
depraved  by  incidental  circumstances  ;  he  will  reply, 

356  LETTERS    ON 

thnt  the  difference  is  not  so  immense  between  permit- 
ting the  agency  of  a  wicked  spirit  to  effect  this  fatal 
change,  by  which  his  own  eternal  purpose  was  ac- 
complished, and  originally  creating  man  with  the  pro- 
pensities you  contemplate  and  bewail }  nor  is  there 
more  injustice  in  punishing  mankind  for  the  primitive 
depravity  with  which  they  were  created,  than  in  ren- 
dering them  liable  to  eternal  damnation  for  imputed 

But  without  wishing  to  palliate  the  frailties  and  im- 
perfection of  human  nature,  he  will  remind  you,  that 
there  is  a  large  space  between  absolute  perfection  of 
character,  and  radical  depravity ;  and  that  a  large 
diversity  of  mixed  characters  may  be  formed  within 
that  space  ;  and  he  will  again  demand,  what  proofs 
have  you  that  it  is  inconsistent  with  the  divine  per- 
fections to  create  beings  capable  of  this  diversity?  If 
you  say  that  every  thing  which  comes  from  God  must 
be  perfect,  he  will  require  an  explanation.  He  will 
ask,  Do  you  mean  to  preclude  the  Deity  from  the 
creation  of  any  beings,  who  are  not  perfect  in  know- 
ledge, disposition,  and  felicity  ?  without  which  there 
must  be  occasional  crimes  of  ignorance,  of  depraved 
wills,  and  some  share  of  misery ;  if  so,  you  presume 
to  limit  his  creative  powers  to  the  formation  of  beings 
perfect  like  himself.  If  this  position  be  disavowed, 
it  will  necessarily  follow,  that  there  must  be  some 
kind  and  degree  of  imperfection  in  the  creation  of 
God.  And  this  being  admitted,  he  will  again  ask, 
How  can  you  prove  that  the  degree  of  imperfection 


and  depravity  observable  in  human  nature  exceeds 
that,  which  it  is  within  the  limits  of  the  divine  attri- 
butes to  admit  ?  He  will  further  suggest  the  possi- 
bility, that,  in  the  wide  empire  of  the  universe,  an 
infinite  diversity  of  methods  may,  in  the  plenitude  of 
infinite  wisdom,  be  rendered  conducive  to  the  same 
issue  ;  the  promotion  of  all  possible  happiness.  He 
may  suppose  it  to  be  the  divine  plan,  in  our  system, 
to  form  beings,  who  shall  be  placed  at  a  great  distance 
from  complete  felicity,  but  with  endowments  that  shall 
render  felicity  attainable  ;  to  create  in  ignorance,  but 
to  furnish  with  powers  and  means  of  acquiring  know- 
ledge ;  in  weakness,  both  individually  and  collectively, 
but  with  the  capacity  of  acquiring  personal  and  com- 
bined strength  ;  to  implant  a  principle  of  self-love, 
which,  though  innocent  in  its  nature,  may  prove  inor- 
dinate and  pernicious,  unless  it  be  under  the  control 
of  higher  principles,  with  which  our  natures  are  like- 
wise endowed  ;  to  inflict  sufferings,  but  to  give  them 
a  salutary  tendency,  so  that  they  may  be  productive  of 
greater  good  than  could  have  been  promoted  without 
them.  He  will  admit,  that  such  a  plan  may  not  cor- 
respond with  our  wishes  ;  and  that  our  impatience  to 
enjoy  happiness  will  induce  us  to  imagine,  that  it  is  not 
the  best  possible  ;  but  you  will  surely  allow,  Sir,  that 
it  is  infinitely  more  consonant  with  our  ideas  of  a  wise 
and  perfect  governour,than  plunging  a  whole  race  into 
endless  misery  at  once,  without  crimes  of  their  own, 
without  means  of  reforming  their  native  depravity,  or 
hopes  of  escape. 

358  LETTERS    ON 

One  singular  advantage  attends  the  above  hypo- 
thesis ;  it  is  not  necessary  that  it  should  be  true,  in 
order  to  invalidate  yours.  If  there  be  no  proofs  that 
it  is  contrary  to  Scripture,  that  it  is  irrational,  or  that 
it  is  peculiarly  derogatory  to  the  divine  perfections,  it 
has  infinitely  the  advantage.  It  may  be  false,  and 
yet  confute  your  bold  assertion,  that  there  is  no  other 
way  of  explaining  the  phenomena  of  human  depra- 
vity, than  the  one  you  have  adopted ;  it  may  be  false, 
and  yet  afford  a  more  pertinent  and  more  honourable 
solution  of  the  difficulty,  until  the  discovery  of  a  bet- 
ter shall  produce  still  greater  satisfaction  to  the  impa- 
tient mind. 

If  the  adoption  of  this  should  commit  too  great  a 
violence  upon  prejudices  and  habits,  that  have  been 
long  formed,  there  is  another  hypothesis  which  ap- 
proaches nearer  to  your  own,  and  ought  to  have  a  de- 
cided preference  ;  and  that  is  the  ancient  doctrine  of 
Manes,  from  which  yours  is  manifestly  derived,  and 
of  which  it  may  be  justly  deemed  a  corruption.  The 
Manichean  system  completely  exculpates  the  Deity 
from  being  the  author  of  evil,  and  the  intentional 
cause  of  misery.  The  Creator  is  deprived  by  it 
of  no  other  attribute  than  that  of  infinite  power, 
which  is  no  impeachment  of  his  moral  character. 
Since  his  designs  and  plans  may  yet  be  just,  wise, 
and  good,  the  grand  respectability  of  character  still 
remains,  and  the  incessant  exertions  of  his  power, 
to  the  destruction  of  misery,  which  he  did  not  volun- 
tarily permit,   still   demand  the   universal  tribute  of 


love  and  gratitude.  Their  doctrine  further  adminis- 
ters this  consolation ;  it  admits  that  the  good  Being 
will  finally  become  triumphant  over  the  malignant 
Spirit ;  and  that  order,  virtue,  and  happiness,  shall, 
at  some  future  period,  be  diffused  through  the  uni- 
verse. Who,  Sir,  that  has  it  in  his  choice,  would 
not  prefer  reposing  his  mind  upon  an  errour,  which 
promises  such  a  desirable  issue,  rather  than  suffer  it 
to  be  tossed,  like  the  fallen  angels  of  Milton,  upon  the 
waves  and  surges  of  eternal  misery,  to  which  your 
system  incessantly  directs  our  thoughts  ? 

Many  other  objections  might  be  advanced  against 
an  hypothesis,  which  you  deem  so  essential  to  Chris- 
tianity ;  but  if  the  force  of  these  already  urged  be  not 
sufficient  to  subdue  your  prejudices,  it  would  be  in 
vain  to  expect  success  from  the  most  numerous 
auxiliaries.  We  might  examine  the  principles  upon 
which  you  rest  the  importance  of  this  doctrine,  and 
prove  them  fallacious.  We  might  assert,  that  to  strike 
terrour  into  the  human  mind,  by  expatiating  upon  the 
danger  of  actual  transgressions,  is  much  better  calcu- 
lated to  produce  a  change  in  minds  and  morals,  than 
the  method  which  your  system  pursues.  For  true 
repentance  can  only  arise  from  a  consciousness  of 
personal  guilt ;  and  a  rational  expectation  of  the  terri- 
ble judgments  of  God,  can  alone  be  founded  on  a 
conviction  that  they  are  righteous,  and  we  deserve 
them.  It  would  not  be  difficult  to  demonstrate,  that 
a  firm  and  influential  belief  of  your  hypothesis  would 
extend  the  most  baneful  effects  over  the  whole  human 

360  LETTERS   ON 

race,  in  every  successive  generation.  It  would  bring 
forward  such  a  total  debasement  of  character,  as  to 
create  mutual  detestation,  and  excite  universal  suspi- 
cion. It  would  compel  every  individual,  when  ac- 
cused of  the  vilest  dispositions,  and  basest  principles, 
to  admit  the  charge.  It  would  diffuse  an  universal 
gloom,  which  nothing  could,  nothing  ought  to  dissi- 
pate. The  benevolent  mind  would  perpetually  suffer 
the  torments  of  the  damned,  by  reflecting  upon  the 
miseries  that  probably  await  the  majority  of  its  most 
intimate  and  endearing  connexions.  Every  principle 
of  humanity  would  forbid  the  most  virtuous  commerce 
of  the  sexes  ;  and  celibacy,  as  the  only  means  of  ex- 
terminating a  race  born  under  the  wrath  and  curse  of 
its  Creator,  would  be  the  sublimest  of  duties.  You 
might  also  be  admonished,  that,  if  the  danger  of  specu- 
lative errours  proceeds  from  their  pernicious  tendency, 
an  errour  so  peculiarly  dishonourable  to  Deity,  which 
has  a  tendency  to  embitter  every  enjoyment  in  life, 
to  throw  one  class  of  persons  into  a  sinful  despond- 
ency, and  tempt  another  to  reject  all  religion,  must  de- 
servedly be  placed  among  the  most  dangerous ;  and 
nothing  can  prove  a  future  excuse  for  your  creed, 
but  that  sincerity  against  which  you  have  entered  so 
solemn  a  protest ;  or  afford  such  consolation  to  the 
mind,  as  the  benignity  which  your  creed  insults. 

Haying  thus  reasoned  with  you  to  the  utmost  ex- 
tent of  thr  subject,  we  might  justly  extol  our  courtesy 
in  condescending  to  argue  with  persons,  whose  by- 
pothesis  deprives  them  of  the  right.     For  what  evi- 


dence  can  those  produce,  that  they  are  qualified  to 
argue  upon  the  subject,  whose  leading  principle  is, 
that  the  fall  of  Adam  has  impaired  our  intellects,  and 
blinded  our  judgments,  to  such  a  degree,  that  we  are 
not  able  in  any  one  instance  to  think  or  to  act  right  ? 
How  can  they,  who  maintain  the  depravity  of  human 
reason,  convince  us  that  every  thing  they  urge,  in  de- 
fence of  their  system,  does  not  proceed  from  that 
very  perversion  of  intellect,  which  they  confess  to 
have  seized  the  whole  human  race  ? 

Justice  could  not  be  done  to  these  hints,  without 
increasing  our  trespass  upon  your  time  and  patience  ; 
and  therefore  they  are  submitted  to  the  amplification 
of  your  leisure  moments. 

It  is  hoped,  Sir,  that  you  will  perceive,  from  the 
pains  which  have  been  taken  in  these  letters,  to  state 
the  objections  to  the  doctrine  of  original  sin,  in  all 
their  force,  that  the  writer  sincerely  aims  at  your  con- 
viction. He  would  be  happy  to  relieve  you  from  that 
embarrassment  of  mind  under  which  you  manifestly 
labour.  He  assures  you  that  it  is  a  pleasant  thing 
for  faith  to  walk  hand  and  hand  with  reason  ;  and  he 
sincerely  thinks,  that  it  would  not  only  be  an  honour, 
but  an  advantage  to  rational  Christianity,  were  you  to 
become  its  advocate.  Eloquence,  like  yours,  founded 
upon  true  principles,  might  produce  the  most  bene- 
ficial consequences. 

These  Letters  are  addressed  to  you  through  the 
medium  of  the  public,  that  they  may,  in  some  degree, 
serve  as  an  antidote  to  the  pernicious  effects  of  your 


Treatise,  upon  minds  already  prejudiced  against  Chris- 
tianity,— whose  prejudices  must  inevitably  be  con- 
firmed, by  the  apprehension  that  your  doctrines  are 
essential  to  genuine  Christianity.  It  is  also  ardently 
desired  to  soften  that  uncharitable  asperity,  which 
your  work  is  unhappily  calculated  to  increase  among 
a  numerous  and  respectable  body  of  christians,  by 
indicating  that  your  principles  are  not  rejected  with- 
out mature  consideration.  In  order  to  make  the  ex- 
periment, whether  it  be  not  possible  for  reason  to  gain 
the  ascendency  over  the  influence  of  station,  and 
popularity  of  character,  the  writer  has  concealed  his 
name,  that  his  arguments  may  be  appreciated  accord- 
ing to  their  real  validity  ;  and  that  their  influence  may 
not  be  diminished  by  prejudice,  or  receive  adventi- 
tious force  from  predilection.  If  he  has,  in  some  in- 
stances, expressed  himself  in  strong  language,  he  has 
taken  care  that  such  language  should  be  authorized 
by  stronger  arguments  ;  and  whenever  he  has  mani- 
fested indignation,  he  has  felt  that  the  doctrine  de- 
serves it,  which  was  with  him  an  additional  proof  of 
its  being  a  pernicious  errour ;  for  nothing,  which 
comes  from  God,  can  possibly  excite  that  emotion. 

With  the  respect  due  to  your  distinguished  merits, 
I  have  the  honour  to  subscribe  myself, 
Sir,  your  fellow  Christian, 

and  obedient  servant, 


Press  of  the  North  American  Review. 




This  book    is    under    no    circumstances    to    be 
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